We live in a world that’s pretty polarized. Unprecedented in my lifetime. We need a way to end polarization.
Your beliefs about politics, about government policy about how to handle the virus, about which direction society should take and so on are ending friendships and dividing families.
This is sort of amazing to me, because I grew up in a pretty right wing, small government, conservative family, and my best friend (our parents were close friends too) came from a far left, union-loving, big government supporting, liberal family. They were very active in politics too.
And it didn’t matter. Some of my best memories of hilarious and interesting and meaningful late night conversation comes from us all hanging out together talking about everything. They were all extremely witty, highly intelligent and interesting, and I thought they were dead wrong, and they thought I was dead wrong, and we were all best of friends and none of that mattered.
Our world has forgotten how to respectfully disagree.
I see this in workplaces a lot. Here’s how it goes, literally every time:
we don’t like the other person, we’re too busy or whatever.
We make ungracious assumptions about their motives.
They’re ignorant or malicious or just plain old evil. So why would we communicate with someone like that.
The relationship is effectively over.
You may still work together, but there’s zero trust.
We entrench our positions
and grab every bit of information we can find to strengthen our skewed ungracious assumptions.
So here’s a simple and highly effective way to deal with this.
Get the two (or more) parties in a room and set this stage:
The first person briefly states their case, and then the other person or group asks questions so they can fully understand the other’s position and motives. They only ask questions. There is no debate allowed, no stating of opinions. Just clarifying questions. They can ask as many as they want for as long as they want.
They can’t stop asking until that person feels understood.
Once that person or group feels fully understood, you change roles and the other side presents their case and answers questions until they too feel fully understood.
I did this recently with a partnership group and by the end of the time, everyone realized that all of the participants had mostly good motives and that the whole group was mostly aligned about direction and even how to achieve goals.
It just takes intentional listening.
Stephen Covey said it a long time ago:
Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
So I want you to think of that caveman troglodyte (look it up and impress your friends) in your life who holds views that beggar description and that you find infuriating.
Now ask yourself:
- Are we communicating about these issues?
- Am I making any ungracious assumptions about that person?
- Do I fully understand their position?
If you have doubts, try my method and you’ll find that it works. It’s a great way to end the polarization and start communicating.
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald
Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.” He is also co-founder and senior instructor at gettingpeopleright.com https://gettingpeopleright.com/
Find more about “The Power of People Skills” here: https://www.amazon.com/Power-People-Skills-Dramatically-Performance/dp/1632651068