In my last blog post, I shared the importance of learning to co-exist with those who have opposing viewpoints. In this charged post-election world, challenging our own beliefs, fostering empathy for others, and opening ourselves to the possibility of finding common ground with others is crucial.
Getting along with those who have deep political or otherwise different beliefs may feel like an impossible challenge, but it is possible. Here are a few simple ways you can work toward keeping and growing your relationships with people with whom you disagree.
Strategies for open, empathic, and mutual communication include:
- Use my Empathic Process. The Empathic Process is a conversation that must happen in person – not online. Meet a friend in a mutual environment, not an office which is a place of power, nor a bedroom where sleep and sexuality occur. Divide your time into thirds, giving each person ample time to express his feelings while the other listens actively making eye contact, and when appropriate, touch. The last third of the time you both speak mutually… together, investing each of you in a collaborative conversation with the goal toward problem solving. Ultimately something new and transcendent will evolve that best represents the ideas of both.
- Recognize your own projections. If there is a charge to your position, then it is often a projection. Remember, the pointing finger has three fingers pointing back…to you. It is important to recognize and acknowledge your projection Then you can separate yourself from them, taking a good hard look and then bringing them on home. And by integrating your projections back into your own psyche, you will no longer be compelled to act them out.
- Describe your emotions. Describe your emotions so that your partner, friend, or relative can feel how you feel. Use descriptive language, for example “when you say (this) I feel like my stomach is sinking, the way it does when an elevator drops”. Explain your viewpoint by explaining yourself. Remind your friend that by knowing your history, he can better understand where you are coming from, your behavior, and your ideas. Affirm his perspective by asking him to explain how he feels, and then how he got to his decision.
- Don’t overreact. Be thoughtful and skillful; ask your friend for feedback. A heated emotional discourse can often disguise what’s really going on, and what you really think.
- Remember your friendship. Focus on the fact that the person you’re communicating with is valuable to you, that he is important and that you care how he feels. Friendship requires commitment, obligation and responsibility. By using my Empathic Process for communication, you can help reintegrate not only your patterns of behavior and projected material, but also that of your partner. It is in this way that you can repair yourself and your friendship through mutual respect, and value for his opinions, ideas, and points of view.