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!
Even with the relaunch of the Dignity & Respect Campaign, coupled with our new energy and direction, it would be remiss to move forward without acknowledging and reminding ourselves of what the campaign stands for in the first place.
One of our original and continued initiatives includes our 7 Pillars of Dignity & Respect. Each one of these pillars represents a specific behavior that we fully believe will help us all create an environment – whether it’s a classroom, a work setting, or even in the line at the supermarket – that we can all exist in both peacefully and productively.
1. Start with You. Understand how you see yourself, how others see you, and how your filters guide you, and influence your behavior.
We all have different backgrounds and vastly different experiences from one another. These experiences have shaped how you have come to see the world, as well as how you react to certain situations. Knowing these factors about yourself can go a long way in your ability to interact with others, and treat them with dignity and respect. Know your strengths as well as you know your weaknesses. Understand what has made you you
2. 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.
Once you fully understand yourself, it’s crucial to know how others might perceive you. Does your humor upset others around you? Do you find yourself making jokes or casual comments that cause others to wince? This type of “harmless” behavior might not mean much to you, but often it can resonate with other people in deeper ways. Be sensitive to others and aware of your own actions. Hold yourself accountable.
3. Build Cultural Awareness. Respond to employees, customers, and business partners in a culturally appropriate manner. Treat others the way they want to be treated.
Cultural awareness does not simply involve learning about other cultures or belief systems. Building cultural awareness means you work towards accepting those differences. By understanding these differences and welcoming them into your communities or circles, we start to drop the barriers.
4. Find Common Ground. Work through differences and gain agreement while maintaining dignity and respect. Acknowledge the value of different perspectives.
Yes, it’s true that you might not understand another person’s opinion, and you might strongly disagree with it. But does that mean you disagree with that person entirely? Chances are very high that you have something in common with him or her. It could be a small thing (perhaps you both have children), or it could be something you didn’t expect (perhaps you have the same favorite author). Or maybe you and this person share a common passion that could spark a collaboration or partnership down the road. You won’t ever know until you try – until you set aside differences and look for the commonalities.
5. Join the Team. Create interactions on teams that are respectful of individual differences, build trust and agreement, limit bias and favoritism, and strive for the best overall outcomes.
Teams do not function at full capacity unless everyone is involved. Just as two heads are better than one, a team or group in which everyone is engaged and contributing is better than one or two individuals excluding the rest. It’s true that these types of interactions can be difficult to cultivate, which is why it takes everyone’s effort to involve others. Work to find the strengths of your teammates, and figure out the best ways to encourage and inspire each member.
6. Lead the Way. Be inclusive with every person, in every interaction, in everything you do, every day.
If each one of us waited for someone else to step up and be the first to lead an initiative, how many initiatives do you expect would get started? The truth is that it’s everyone’s responsibility to take charge and make an impact. This impact can be as small as an effort to smile at everyone you pass on the street.
7. Do the Right Thing. Do your part to make your organization, school, community, and sports team a better place for ALL to live, work, learn, and play.
Don’t do the easy thing – do the right thing. We all have the ability to make a difference in the lives of others. Don’t underestimate yourself or how much acting out of dignity and respect can impact the world.
In addition to knowing what each of these 7 Pillars stands for, the Dignity & Respect Campaign also offers modules and training materials for you to incorporate these principles into your own organization. Contact us for more information, and take the first step in making the world a better place for ALL to live.
Communication is an extremely important aspect of our everyday lives that is so easy to overlook. Whether you are in conversation with coworkers, with friends and acquaintances, or with your family members, practicing strong and honest communication is a key player in fostering good relationships.
Lately, it seems there are a slew of issues in the news that create divides between peers and loved ones. Politics and topical issues have a tendency of polarizing people who discuss them – and even sparking animosity and irritation.
At the Dignity & Respect Campaign, we know how important certain issues might be to you. We believe that everyone is entitled to their opinions and feelings, but we also believe in acceptance – which means respecting others’ opinions and feelings, even if they differ from yours. This concept corresponds directly with the Fourth pillar of our 7 Pillars: Finding Common Ground. This model for behavior focuses on the ability to work through differences and gain agreement, while maintaining dignity and respect. To help you better understand this concept, and maybe even work through some ways to foster it, we’ve created a list of helpful tips for you:
Practice active listening. When you are in conversation with someone, regardless of whether the topic is a heated one or not, it’s a good habit to practice active listening. This means to be intentional about listening and make sure you are giving your full attention to the speaker. Also be sure to listen without interruption, and provide feedback to the speaker. Let him/her know what you heard so you can clear up any misunderstandings right away before you contribute to the conversation.
Be self aware. Understand how your culture and background shape you. Understand the differences between you and the person you are communicating with. For the most part, misunderstandings between people of different cultures, generations, or backgrounds occur not because of what was said, but because of how one party said it. The best way to stop these mishaps from happening is to not assume sameness, and not assume that the other party immediately understands what you mean. Take the time to get on the same page.
Disagree. Conversations are not a game that you play. The point in a discussion is not to win – there is no right or wrong when it comes to opinions. It is very important to remember this, and especially important to remember that it is not your job to make someone agree with you. This is a key component in respect. It is okay to disagree. The purpose of conversing is to learn from someone else – not to sway them to believe what you believe. Hopefully, they can also learn from you.
These helpful tips can go a long way in creating healthy and respectful conversations. The more we effectively communicate with one another – even on sensitive issues – the more we can acknowledge our differences and promote acceptance of those differences.