Election 2016: Demonstrating Mutual Respect in a Disagreement

demonstrating mutual respect in tough political conversation

We’re quickly approaching Election Day 2016. While months of news coverage and debate are behind us, we’re likely still feeling the effects of a highly polarized political climate. This election cycle has caused a particularly tangible rift between people, even between friends and family who don’t typically disagree with each other. Many of us have been active participants in online and in-person conversations about the candidates, their policies, and their scandals. Many of these conversations are likely to have been intense, even heated. Many are rife with misunderstanding.

The Politics of Conversation

When emotions run high and even widespread viewpoints are so mismatched, it can seem impossible to find common ground. To top it all, fact becomes difficult to discern from fiction. Truths and untruths alike are coming at us from all directions, including our media.

This kind of political climate makes a few questions especially relevant, even urgent:

  • Do I have to respect the views of someone I disagree with?
  • Do I have to respect that person despite their views, some of which I find harmful or false?
  • Is it right to agree to disagree?
  • When is it time to talk, and time to walk away?

Navigating Tough Discussions

We aren’t always going to agree with each other. In fact, it’s pretty realistic to say that, quite often, we won’t. Conflict is a part of life. What we want to avoid is unproductive conflict. In the heat of an argument, we oftentimes become so wrapped up in the point we’re trying to make that we don’t take a moment to, first, listen to ourselves, and second, understand where someone else is coming from.

That misunderstanding gets us nowhere. The way we can start to make progress is by building personal awareness, and encouraging others to do the same.

The first 2 of our 7 Pillars of Dignity & Respect provide a platform to begin:

  • START WITH YOU. Understand how you see yourself, how others see you, and how your filters guide you and influence your behavior.
  • SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF. Understand the concepts of intent vs. impact. Become mindful of how you respond to others and be responsible for your words and actions.

Our differences shouldn’t tear us apart. Making the effort to become more aware can put us in a better position to understand each other, and it builds our ability to argue intelligently and effectively.

When Views Cause Harm

When someone’s viewpoint is harmful to others, it’s up to you to decide whether to make that person aware of the harm. However well-intentioned we are, remember that we don’t often get anywhere when we try to force our ideas on someone who doesn’t want to hear them.

We don’t have to agree to disagree with someone who is spreading harmful views. We do, however, need to build up the respect, awareness, and tools that can overcome those views. Taking time to understand where someone is coming from and seeking out what you have in common is a place to start. Providing resources, rather than telling someone you think they’re wrong, can go far. The smarter we fight, the better we become.

Demonstrate Mutual Respect (Although It’s Hard)

When we take steps to understand each other, the results might not be immediate. In the meantime, it can be difficult to be respectful. It’s even harder when the person we’re talking with doesn’t respect our views – or us.

Tip #9 of our 30 Tips is this: Demonstrate Mutual Respect. While we can’t force someone to respect us, we can lead by example. Each person is fundamentally worthy of respect and dignity. Someone you disagree with, who holds beliefs or viewpoints that are different than yours, is still someone.

We encourage you to download the 30 Tips of Dignity and Respect and learn about the 7 Pillars, which can be incorporated into smarter, more effective discussions about Election 2016 and beyond. If you want to use your organization or workplace to make the world a better place for ALL of us, with ALL of our differences, contact us for information on our workshops and speaking engagements!


The 30 Tips of Dignity & Respect

Every day, you wake up with a choice. When you leave your home to go out into the world, you can either operate on autopilot – reacting haphazardly to interactions with others, or avoiding them altogether – or you can be mindful of your behavior and how it’s affecting other people.

Each one of us makes this choice every day – many times a day – though we may not consciously know it. But what if you started paying attention to your habits and committed to treating everyone you encounter with dignity and respect?

This is what the 30 Tips of Dignity & Respect aims to do. These simple tips are everyday behaviors that you can easily incorporate into your life – that will make a world of difference to those around you.


So read the list and follow the tips, and learn how to start making the world a better place for ALL to live:

  1. Start with you. Reflect on how you see others, and how others see you.
  2. Sweat the small stuff. It’s often the small things, such as being kind and courteous, that make a difference.
  3. Smile. A smile can be contagious.
  4. Say “Hello.” You could make someone’s day.
  5. Say “Thank you.” Gratitude is a gift that’s never too small to give.
  6. Treat others the way they want to be treated. Find out what respect means to others.
  7. Build cultural awareness. Differences are barriers only if we allow them to be.
  8. Make a new friend. Start a conversation and learn something new.
  9. Demonstrate mutual respect. Inclusion means being respectful regardless of position or title.
  10. Ask. It’s okay to ask when you’re not sure.
  11. Find common ground. Discover what you have in common.
  12. Communicate respectfully. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it.
  13. Practice patience. Take the time to get the full story.
  14. Seek understanding. It’s better to not fully understand than to fully misunderstand.
  15. Share your point of view. Everyone has a perspective. Let others benefit from yours.
  16. Get someone else’s point of view. After sharing your perspective, give others a chance to share theirs.
  17. Reinvent the wheel. Do something that hasn’t already been done.
  18. Be open. Try to experience new thoughts and ideas as learning opportunities.
  19. Be flexible. Things don’t always go as planned. Adapt to changing conditions when necessary.
  20. Join the team. Do your part to support teamwork.
  21. Be a relationship builder. Seek ways to expand your network.
  22. Build trust. Be fair. Limit bias and favoritism.
  23. Lead the way. Let your inclusive behavior light a path for others.
  24. Listen. People feel respected when they know you’re listening to their point of view.
  25. Remember we all make mistakes. Resist the urge to point out the ones others make.
  26. Do the right thing. Make a difference. Get caught being good.
  27. Become a mentor. You – yes, you – can help others realize their potential.
  28. Lend a hand. A little help can go a long way.
  29. Live a healthy life. Do something good for your mind, body, & soul. Encourage others to join you.
  30. Be a champion of dignity and respect. Demonstrate respect for self, others, and your community.