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Is Controversy The Norm…You Have A Choice.

Posted on December 9, 2016 by Luanne Paynick

Learn how to work through conflict with Listening

It is December, 2016 – one month following the result of our Presidential election. Based on the numbers, it appears that approximately 50% of the voting population’s candidate won. The other half lost. Half are in celebration and half are in mourning. The United States finds itself in an emotional upheaval due to the result of the election. Elation, joy and relief are balanced with sadness, anger, and disappointment.

It has been quite a journey, one wrought with divisiveness, ugliness and drama. It was, by all news accounts, one of the most divisive elections in history. And, based on what is on social media, the ugliness continues. How did we move away from true discourse about the issues, to an election that was based on dirty pasts and name calling? I’m not sure how to answer that question. I’m sure that an educated historian or sociologist could provide some insight.

To be honest, I’m less concerned about what brought us here and more concerned about what might lead us in a different direction – a path towards openness, acceptance and true understanding. When I say “us” I mean the general population; including you, me, and even the media.

I believe the answer might lie in several approaches. Please know, that these are not offered as “magic bullets.” They are also not offered as a comprehensive solution, but as small steps that can lead us in a more positive direction.

What if . . .

  1. You began with a bit of empathy and appreciation.
    • I know we may not see eye to eye, but I have to let you know how much I admire . .
    • We may have had our differences in the past, but I want you to know that I truly admire . . .
    • I can only imagine how difficult the outcome of this election has been for you. My heart goes out to you.
  1. You enter into your interactions with curiosity rather than the desire to prove the other person wrong or yourself right. An approach that is curiosity based might look like . . .
    • Tell me how you arrived at your decision.
    • What brought you to your conclusion?
    • What experiences have you had that led you to this belief?
    • How is this (name it) different than (name it)?
    • How will you move forward to accomplish this?
  1. You give the other person the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise.
  1. You share your perspective or point of view and invite the other person to continue in the dialogue, rather than speaking as though your point of view is the ultimate truth. It might look like . . .
    • I believe (your belief). What are your thoughts?
    • I recommend that we (your recommendation). Please challenge my thinking.
    • I think we should (your next steps). I would like to hear your ideas.
  1. You back up your perspective or thinking with what led you to it. For example . . .
    • This is what I recommend, and here is how I arrived at this conclusion.
    • I believe we need to (action) based on (facts, data, observations, experiences, etc.).
    • I am going to (action) because (reasons why).
  1. You reflect back what you hear the other person say or feel to ensure you are clear in your understanding. When we do that, we are validating the other person and allowing them to feel heard. That doesn’t mean we agree, it means we care enough to search for true understanding. With that trust, often comes a higher level of sharing, and willingness to enter into an open dialogue from the other person.

Again, there are no magic bullets when it comes to emotional based communication. The goal is to keep the door open and honor one another as we heal and grow on our path towards openness, acceptance and true understanding.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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