The current social and political environment demonstrates that there is a great deal of enthusiasm and awareness about what is happening in the world. On the other hand, it also highlights a high degree of nonproductive communication, chaos, misunderstandings, and hostile language and actions. To the latter, if you don’t agree, just take a trip over to just about any political based page on a social media platform and read underneath posts where comments are being exchanged. It seems that for many of us, the same outcomes are also occurring right at home as family members and friends hurl highly-charged statements and positions that are laced with personal attacks at each other. What will it take to create an atmosphere of more helpful dialogue exchange? We might highlight a variety of factors which appear to be feeding such trends — for example, the increase of sound bites, social media memes, and other technological advancements have seemingly made it easier for emotionally-driven reactionary stabs to take place. I believe humanity has greater potential to be more thoughtful and compassionate than this. How do we tap into that though?

One way forward may be to make a stronger effort towards establishing camaraderie where heated and hostile communication is being used. We need to encourage and support the rise of facilitating conversation. When two or more parties are simply bashing each other over their different viewpoints, we can make an attempt to be the mediator and help them understand what actually divides them — that is, their interests, values, and needs, rather than individual person-hood rooted in anger, fear, and confusion. American society is no stranger to disagreement. Such contention is no doubt a major reason for the birth of certain innovations and social progress yet also a lack of unity and unnecessary hardships. I have faith that we can have the best of both worlds (diversity and unity) but we have to make being an intermediary a trendy thing. Hey, being a peacemaker is cool … no really, it is!

Additionally, it is important to ask some questions such as what can bring the whole together? And, what kinds of interests do we share in common that can be a point of mutual idea sharing and productive conversation, even if political, religious, and otherwise value-centered perspectives do not align? In mediation, many of us have witnessed such divided parties resolve major disputes involving resources, relationships, power imbalances, and so forth by showing the willingness to step into the other sides shoes. As a whole, we need to popularize humility and critical-thinking. Sometimes giving credit where credit is due goes a long way when building a culture of cooperation. While we should respect and honor our different beliefs, we need to recognize that we’re all designing this world together. By hurting you, I hurt myself! Let’s identify areas that we agree on and build an environment that works better for all of us — we share more common ground than we’d like to think sometimes.

Some folks still may not see the value in meaningful disagreement. It is my work to encourage those people to see that how they debate can not only help others understand — and potentially be drawn to — their viewpoint but further enable them to look more closely and honestly at what they may be missing in their argument. When people decide to work on disagreement with buy-in and respect, new insights and better solutions become tangible options. It is beneficial to furthering one’s viewpoints to examine those that do not share the same stance. This is where we need to work together collectively to demonstrate the usefulness in being an investigator and student of disagreement so not to push others away with coercion and create walls of impasse. Instead, let’s find where alignment can and cannot be had and move forward with problem solving.

All that said, people still need room to make mistakes. And, diversity can be our strength indeed. However, so many of us seem to be living on the edge these days — always wanting to prove and push our opinions on someone else rather than to simply have a conversation with them. The forecast for patience and care is looking pretty grim these days. It is time to put dignity and forgiveness front and center. It’s time to give rise to more respect and to demonstrate how meaningful disagreement can take place. If not just for accomplishing our own interests and needs, at least for the sake of children who sit and watch some adults throw their fellow humans under the bus with divisiveness and a lack of cooperation. Let’s work to change that one step at a time — together.

CJ Clayton Jr.

11/28/2018 

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