Healthy Communication

 

If there’s one thing virtually everyone can agree on these days, it’s that our country feels very angry. We are not only divided in our views, but we are at each others’ throats.

I saw a headline the other day that read, “Can Democracy Survive the Internet?” How ironic that we live in this information age, when almost all the world’s knowledge is literally at our fingertips, and yet we are acting less enlightened than ever. People seem to use this magnificent resource to further bolster whatever view they already hold. We dig in with emotional attachment rather than being truly open to new ideas.

How can we ever hope to solve the challenges we face if we won’t even listen to each other with open minds? How can we heal if we won’t give the “other side” any credit for having intelligence, for having values, for wanting to solve the same problems we want to solve (just with a vastly different strategy perhaps)?

It feels like we all need to collectively take a deep breath (get out of fight-or-flight mode!), and assess whether being at odds all the time is really working for us. Maybe it’s time we revisit cooperation, respect, compassion if not understanding, and—at the very least—demand that both/all parties be reasonable.

How? Here are some ideas.

We must let go of all-or-nothing, black-or-white thinking. It’s very limiting. Consider this: are you a good person or a bad person? How about the person you’re “debating”—are they are a good person (genius) or a bad person (idiot)? We all can drive each other nuts, and we ALL also have some redeeming qualities. Liberals don’t all think alike, conservatives aren’t all insane, immigrants/minorities/religious people aren’t all _____. We’re all individuals.

Appreciate the value of different points of view. How much are you exposed to people who stand on the opposite side of social issues? How much do you allow (or encourage!) a range of ideas on your social media or in social situations? Is everyone free to express their views? We gain from the open sharing of opinions, and it helps us feel connected. Everyone wants a chance to be heard.

Listen with an open mind. Listen as you’d like to be listened to. Building relationships require the verb “relate,” and this is necessary to compromise and achieve consensus.

Don’t bring others into the argument. Stay focused on the conversation you’re currently having. Trying to build a coalition can escalate bad feelings, and other people may not appreciate being dragged into a debate that’s not their own.

Think before you speak. Is your argument well thought out? Are you being defensive? Are you attacking? Would you appreciate being spoken to in the manner you’re using? Are you setting yourself up to be shot down? Sometimes we just have to recognize that nothing fruitful will come from this particular conversation, and move on.

Keep your composure. I love this quote, “If you let your emotions get in the way of your logic, you’ll not only lose the argument but further contribute to animosity in the room” (see sources, below). Also, insist that the person you’re conversing with stay calm as well.
Keep your sense of humor. Laughter can be a great way to diffuse tension.

Try to find common ground. You might define “freedom” differently, for example, but you probably both value freedom. What else do you have in common? Reinforce positive feelings you have for each other, despite your differences. Remember what you respect and appreciate about each other—there’s always something to love!!

Licensed marriage and family counselor Ashley Thorn suggests asking ourselves these questions:
What are the facts, and what are our assumptions?
What are my values? How do those values fit into my thoughts, questions, and decisions? (Then also consider the other persons’ values, and how they inform their thoughts, questions, and decisions. Don’t they want the economy to thrive? Don’t they want to keep our kids and our communities safe? Don’t they want other countries to see ours as honorable? And so forth.)
What are the pros and cons to BOTH sides of the argument?

The more we try to appreciate what’s good about other people (even those we vehemently disagree with), treat them with respect and foster compassion, the more peaceful and productive our communication can be. Then maybe we can really start talking to—and listening to—each other, and solve some of the problems we face, together.

Sources:

https://psychcentral.com/blog/5-ways-to-expand-all-or-nothing-thinking/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201611/10-tips-talking-people-you-cant-agree

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth Posted on March 7, 2018

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