The world seems to weigh a lot more lately. Stuck with the gravity of the situation, the rock of history, and the hard place of the coming few years, I can’t help but feel greater responsibility and greater urgency both. I thought, outside of climate change, that I had time to figure things out. Now I think I have no time at all.
So, in changing some of my focus, I also will be changing my writing. I started writing here as practice and a way to explore ideas, and I still want to do that, but the patient exploration of ideas is no longer where I can afford to spend the majority of my time. I need concrete, specific action that will have a direct impact on the world.
What that means for the time being is that I’ll post essays here only on Fridays, and I reserve Tuesdays for things I find productive in the Trump era. I need to balance my thought and my action, and so I’ll balance it here as well.
To start with, yesterday I attended (and nominally helped organize) a session on having hard political conversations in our communities. It’s a small step, and a work in progress. But, no matter what our politics, we’re all getting into those conversations, and it helps to think about how to have them beforehand. So for today, I’m posting the list of resources I helped compile, and which is going out to participants.
Resources for Crossing the Political Divide
Confronting beliefs that dramatically conflict with our own frustrates us deeply; it’s easy to stop listening and start attacking, to stop discussing and start accusing. Here are some tools to help us listen and speak with care:
- Learn the four parts of the Nonviolent Communication Process – http://www.nonviolentcommunication.com/pdf_files/4part_nvc_process.pdf
- Examine feelings and needs we all have for framing common ground – http://www.nonviolentcommunication.com/pdf_files/feelings_needs.pdf
- Watch Marshall Rosenberg teaching the basics of Nonviolent Communication – https://youtu.be/eF6kMJxOpvI
- Read Miki Kashtan’s essay on Nonviolent Communication and Gandian Principles – http://www.satyagrahafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/gandhian-principles-for-everyday-living.pdf
Step Outside Your Values
The political divide is also a moral divide, so the people on different sides of it have different moral centers that motivate them. Moral arguments that arise from your own beliefs appear strange or ludicrous to others. Here are some resources for understanding moral centers on both sides to help us step into one another’s shoes:
- Understand political polarization and moral centers through this TEDx Talk by Robb Willer – https://youtu.be/5LrThf-Beq0
- Investigate your own moral centers by taking the Moral Foundations Questionnaire – http://www.yourmorals.org/explore.php
Expect to be Wrong
Our most fundamental assumptions reinforce our own rightness. To be open to different ideas, we have to presume our own ideas have mistakes. If we keep that in mind, we can approach different ideas as a way to improve ours, rather than theirs. Here are some tools for understanding our own biases:
- We tend to look for things that affirm our beliefs and ignore things that contradict them; read a brief primer on Confirmation Bias by Kendra Cherry – https://www.verywell.com/what-is-a-confirmation-bias-2795024
- Learn how to use Active Listening to explore opposing views instead of debating them with this study guide – http://studygs.net/listening.htm
Other Readings and Resources
There’s no quick fix; learning to operate outside our own beliefs is an ongoing challenge. Here are some readings for continuing to question our perspectives:
- Healing the Divide: A Values-Based Approach to Politics by Audrey Mickelson – http://www.counseling.org/about-us/post-election-resources/healing-the-divide-a-values-based-approach-to-politics
- The Other Side is Not “Dumb” by Sean Blanda – https://medium.com/@SeanBlanda/the-other-side-is-not-dumb-2670c1294063
- Political Empathy by Doug Muder – http://www.uuworld.org/articles/political-empathy
- Party Over Policy: The Dominating Impact of Group Influence on Political Beliefs by Geoffrey Cohen – https://ed.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/party_over_policy_0.pdf
Image Credit: Jen