Polarization (political and otherwise) is at an all-time high in our country right now. It seems as though everyone is picking a side and rejecting anyone else who isn’t on the same side that they are. This can have an impact on communication and relationships and create friction between you and those you care about. We don’t have to live life like this though! If you want to respect the opinions of others, there are some things we can all do.
Forget about ‘wrong and right;’ instead, think about differences. If you think of yourself as right, it’s easy to see how anyone else is wrong. People who take different views than yours have their reasons. If you want to reduce polarization, it makes sense to appreciate the fact that everyone sees the merits of their own position.
How do they see it? Reducing polarization means accepting that others see things differently than you do. Ask them how they see things. Be curious and learn. Stop assuming you know. That means asking a lot of questions. Most adults are not eager to argue or be confronted on their values and beliefs. Rather than see yourself as ‘better than’ try seeing yourself as ‘different from.”
You can agree to disagree. If you only want to have people in your life who hold the same beliefs that you do, you may have to stay home a lot more than you do now! On a personal level, you can keep your circle of friends and family small. Work, however, is a different story. If you want to maintain a relationship that allows you to get work done effectively, it may mean avoiding talking about politics completely. Even if someone tries to engage you into a conversation that will result in conflict, you can still hold the line. Be clear that ‘talking about politics interferes with us having a good relationship and I don’t want anything to threaten that so the political topics are off the table.” They may not like it but they’ll understand. At some point, they may even see the wisdom of this position.
It’s not a bad idea to reduce the time spent on social media. We all tend to surround ourselves with like-minded people. Social media is often filled with polarizing posts and items that bait people into responding emotionally. Some of those posts may be from outside influencers who are trying to do exactly that. If you think you are being baited, or harassed, log out.
It’s not easy to find fact-based information. Many outlets have a viewpoint. But the objective sources do exist so stop by FactCheck.org or VoteSmart.org (nonprofit nonpartisan sites). Learn more about other ways to view things.
Find someone you trust and respect who isn’t interested in swaying you in any particular direction. Tell them you want to learn more about their political view/party and thought they would be able to provide the information in an unbiased way.
The goal is to reduce us vs. them thinking.
The best way I know to do that is to bring people from a wide variety of backgrounds together in an effort to increase mutual understanding and reduce polarization. Just getting people with differing viewpoints together in a room to talk about those viewpoints can be a big challenge today. Creating opportunities to intentionally have those kinds of interactions with varying perspectives in a positive and constructive setting is the first step in the right direction.
No matter where you sit on the political and ideological spectrum, we all have seats on the same ride! This isn’t just a community challenge, it’s a national one.
It’s not really an us vs. them situation. It’s about WE.