First, let me take a moment to lead you in a deep breathing exercise. Take a deep breath in for four counts. Then slowly release for four counts. Repeat as often as needed in order to get through the day.
Now. I have a question.
Seriously. Because I look at what is happening in our country and I can’t help but think it has GOT to be a time travel experiment gone wrong.
People of color are scared. Women are scared. The LBGTQ community is scared. Immigrants are scared. People with pre existing conditions and limited health insurance opportunities are scared. Low income and poor families are scared.
I think the only people who aren’t scared are white, upper class, home owning, car driving, nuclear family, conservative Christians who send their kids to private school.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m related to many people who fall into the not-scared population listed here. I have a good amount of friends on Facebook like that. I have found that in general, they’re incredible people with deep respect and love for our country and for their neighbors and families.
But guys, we need to talk.
There is SO much divisiveness controlling our hearts and minds these days. We can’t just keep our heads down in public and wait until we get behind a keyboard. And we can’t just sit around and talk shit with people who think and believe exactly as we do. Even if you have as much contempt as Deadpool has for Wolverine, or fight as much as Captain America and Ironman or Draco and Harry, you gotta be able to sit down and talk. Can you imagine how differently those stories would be if they just sat down and listened to what the other had to say instead of just hating one another?
We have to bring back the art of face to face discourse.
I’ll wait a moment for the introverts of the world to finish their collective shudder. Y’all good? Alright, hear me out.
We need to be able to talk about what is happening and try to see one another’s point of view. We need to open up our minds to the possibility that someone else might have a logical position on a topic, or at least try to empathize and understand where they’re coming from based on their cultural worldview.
I am going to be the first one to admit that it is really, really hard to do that.
Growing up as a Parris, we had heaps of fun. It was an incredible environment to grow up in. But, one of the things I never, ever learned how to do very well was communicate. Both of my parents are attorneys, so if I tried to argue, I was put in my place IMMEDIATELY (and with good reason). And with parents who were on opposing sides of the voting ballot, we didn’t really talk about things political very much. Sure, my brother and I disagreed on things all the time (because he ruined my stuff by touching it!) but when we fought, it was shut down pretty quickly by parental intervention. So I never learned how to argue. I never learned how to have a discussion with someone that I didn’t agree with. I DID get really good at pitching a fit, getting really mad, and then clamming up and not say anything.
Those skills aren’t super helpful when trying to adult in 2017. So I picked up a few skills along the way (working in a church surrounded by people who don’t agree with you on anything at all including the amount of make up you choose to wear) on how to communicate with people. I’m in no way an expert on anything, especially communication, but I think I’ve learned a thing or two through a TON of trial and mostly error.
So here are Katie’s quick tips to talking it out with someone who you don’t agree with but at least respect on a basic human level.
- Speak calmly but freely. Allow yourself to be passionate, but do not yell (yeah I know I’m loud and sometimes I just yell because that’s my voice. But you gotta try).
- Be mindful of your body language. Keep your arms down to your side or place your hands in your lap. Don’t cross your arms. Don’t make a fist with one finger sticking up. That just defeats the purpose, no matter how great it might feel in the moment.
- Allow the other persons plenty of time to speak and say what is on their heart without interrupting. Utilize intentional eye contact and keep a calm passive face.
- Say reassuring things like “what I’m hearing you say is…” and “I can see where you’re coming from and I empathize with you.” and try to avoid saying things like “Oh my good god you’re an idiot.” or “Are you actually insane?” because those things tend to hurt and be counter productive.
- Genuinely listen and take in what they’re saying. They could actually have some really good points.
- At the end, thank them for their time and their opinions, shake hands (or hug if you’re into that kind of thing), and walk away.
- Text or email them in the following days to say thank you again and to let them know that you respect them and honor their opinions as a human (even if you think they’re completely and totally bonkers).
That’s it! Now you have the options of continuing to interact with them, or you know, cutting them out completely and never talking to them again. But at least you can say you tried!
And that’s really all I’m asking for us as a collective whole to do. Try. Because we really, really need to talk about what’s happening in our world. We need to speak up for ourselves and for those whose voices have been muffled and silenced. We have to talk to one another in truth and in love with understanding and with grace.
So, let’s talk.
*the featured image was found via Google search. The original image belongs to the creators at www.managersareheroes.com. Please don’t sue me.