“When one half of the nation demonizes the other half, tendrils of resentment reach out and strangle whatever charitable impulses remain in us.”
― Ben Sasse, Them: Why We Hate Each Other–and How to Heal
Division and divisiveness seem to be everywhere these days. From Capitol Hill to Main Street, the arguments surrounding the pressing issues of our day threaten to tear the fabric of our institutions asunder. Political tribalism has always been with us, but there certainly seems to be an unhealthy separation between “us” and “them” lately.
Our divisions are probably the most evident in the battles raging across the digital landscape on social media, but they manifest themselves in the workplace too. Leaders would be well served to combat the tribalism that is infecting our society whenever and wherever they can. Here are a few things I’ve been thinking about lately that might be helpful:
- Help the people within your sphere of influence look for and find common ground. The truth is that most Americans actually agree on most things. We love our country, our state, and our community. We want our children to thrive and do better than we did. We want to be safe. We want to pursue our passions and want others to be able to pursue theirs.
- Listen more than you talk. Look for similarities, not for differences. Try to understand where another person is coming from.
- Be thoughtful about what you post on social media. You have every right to be opinionated, and to share your opinions wherever you choose. We’re fortunate to live in a country that affords us that right. Before you post, however, take a moment to think about whether your comment or “like” is going to bring people together and further your cause, or simply create more division.
- Be intentional about the words you use. Certain words have long been a part of our English language, but they’ve picked up a lot of baggage over the years. Some have become code words that trigger emotional responses of division within the people who hear them. You know many of these words. Be cautious when using them in any context.
- Be curious, not contemptuous, of differences of opinion. As Covey says, seek first to understand, then to be understood. Rather than categorize the other person as “them”, or to condemn them for their viewpoint, engage in a curious discovery of why they hold the viewpoint. Usually, when you intend to understand their perspective, you will find something in common or a partial meeting of the minds.