Take an Open Stance in the Face of Polarization

No doubt, you are experiencing the challenges of polarization. Family members, coworkers, and community participants are dumbfounded by people with different views.  People are severing relationships with those on different sides of views on mask-wearing, climate policy, structural injustice, health care and economic strategies.

We truly wonder how people can be seeing things so differently. We see no common ground.  We are getting different facts from different news sources and the algorithms of social media usher in views that help to solidify our perspectives.  Confirmation bias strengthens our neural pathways and we believe we are right. Others in our circle further strengthen our view and enhance the polarization.

The last thing we want to do is engage in open-minded conversations. Yet, this is what is needed more than ever. I encourage leaders I coach and those in my workshops to consciously work to expand their experiences and knowledge. We each naturally have blind spots and we see the world through our background conditioning. If you only listen to one brand of media, you will continue to confirm your view. Sure, that is comforting. However, we need leaders who will take an open stance and listen and work to understand where others are coming from and what they are seeing.  In my experience, when we engage in conversations with the intent to give, empathy and understanding solutions often readily emerge.

How do we take an open stance? First, we need to make the intention to be open. Then when we are surprised or angered by a different point of view, we need to recognize our judgment signal and stop, step back and cool down.  If you look closely you will find a somatic signal such as a tightening in your stomach or chest. You can cool down by simply taking a few deep breaths, taking a walk, engaging in something that relaxes you, etc. The key is to know how to shift into an open curious state. There are many ways to do this. One that I prefer is to recall a time when I was open such as when being in nature or with a loved one. With this simple move your body shifts to being open. You will feel more receptive and so will your previous opponent.

Emotions are contagious. When others sense that you are actually open to understanding, you are likely to engage in an interesting and meaningful conversation. I share more about how to have positive and productive conversations in my book, blog and course called OASIS Conversations. Ideally, we shift from the arid desert of polarization to the aliveness and possibility of an oasis.

Commit to an open stance and engage in conversations to create shared solutions.

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