The past week has been among the most stressful times in our recent history, and I have not conducted a single counseling or coaching session since last Tuesday in which the presidential election has not arisen in conversation. While I also directly feel the pain of our country’s divisiveness right now, I remain fiercely optimistic that we can get through this time.
This will not be easy, I know, and it will not happen overnight, and it will require of all of us that we get out of our respective echo chambers and start having actual conversations about tough subjects. Not on Facebook or Twitter, but in actual full, living color.
My friend Benny and I have discussed this since well before the election, hoping that the current polarization could be assuaged by a true attempt to build understanding among individuals, red and blue. He sent me this article by Sean Blanda about how we might start to approach tough conversations that many of us (myself included) have been socialized to avoid.
Blanda cites “a fun game I like to play in a group of trusted friends called ‘Controversial Opinion.’ The rules are simple: Don’t talk about what was shared during Controversial Opinion afterward and you aren’t allowed to ‘argue’ — only to ask questions about why that person feels that way. Opinions can range from ‘I think James Bond movies are overrated’ to ‘I think Donald Trump would make an excellent president.’”
He goes on to explain the concept of consensus bias that suggests that social environments like Facebook tend to blindside us when faced with opposing beliefs. Over time, Blanda says, “this morphs into a subconscious belief that we and our friends are the sane ones and that there’s a crazy ‘Other Side’ that must be laughed at — an Other Side that just doesn’t ‘get it,’ and is clearly not as intelligent as ‘us.’” That’s where the echo chamber emerges, building walls of steel, “one where those inside are increasingly convinced that everyone shares their world view.”
I can’t speak for everyone, but it seems like maybe we forgot how to talk to one another (or never knew how to do so in the first place.) I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to discuss anything with anyone who does or doesn’t share my views at any time. The healing won’t begin until we figure out how to do so.
Don’t give up or give in,
P.S. Benny and I are talking about organizing meetups to bring people with disparate viewpoints to join up to talk about meaty issues. Email me at email@example.com if you are interested in attending or helping to organize these get-outside-your-comfort-zone chats.