Over the past 15 years in my consulting work across the country, I have experienced a sense of growing antagonism in the way our differences are expressed; lack of respect for boundaries, less politeness, more saying things to and about others either face to face or online that would previously have been unthinkable and unacceptable. My mother would have washed my mouth out with soap and relegated me to my room for who knows how long!
I do not see this as something that has been dropped on us out of the blue because of this election. I do not see it as a partisan issue. I see it as something we subconsciously bought into the with the beginning of the Survivor reality show, with its manipulations and ugliness to get people off the island, something that has grown as online chat often provides a sense of anonymity, and the advent of 24 hour “news” outlets seeking viewers and ratings pushes opinions as well as facts to the point we don’t know the difference, and drama and conflict are no longer breaking news, but daily teasers.
We are indeed polarized. Everyone thinks they are one of the ‘good guys’ and the other ‘side’ of whatever issue is the ‘bad guys.’ If we were in a movie, there would be those who consider themselves the hero/heroine swooping in to save the system from the ‘baddies,’ and those who have just been depicted as the ‘baddies’ see themselves as the good guys, and those who consider themselves the good guys as the ‘baddies.’ So polarized beyond and behind the stated issues on social, religious and political issues that much conversation around winter holidays about hating to go home and not able to have conversation around family dinner tables!
There are, indeed, many issues, but Talking Together is not just about how we talk about issues, at special topical forums, but how we form the habits and use the skills so that behaviors that respect others are normal for us every day, at home and at work. I am all for, and fully support the formalized efforts to talk about important issues in a positive way. But it is equally or perhaps more important that the respectful ways of interacting become so internalized that they are with us in the most casual, unexpected encounters everyday, which is where most relationships are forged or broken.
Many years ago I was drawn to a book whose title was “How to Survive in Suburbia When My Heart is in the Himalayas.” The premise, of course, was that it is easy to be at one with self and the world on retreat, whether the Himalayas be the real ones or somewhere closer by, when that is the focus, but so so much harder when we are stuck in a line of traffic, or sick kids at home, or a bad day at work. And that’s exactly what Talking Together is all about. How do we develop the way of doing life that keeps us in constructive dialogue wherever we are?
Talking Together: a Promise to the Future of the Planet is something we can all DO in a time when many feel stuck, overwhelmed, angry and sad. Won’t you join us in helping change our world?