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 significant degree of nonproductive communication, or, chaos, misunderstandings, and hostile language and actions. This can be seen on many of today’s various media platforms where comments and viewpoints are exchanged. It seems that for many of us, the same outcomes are also occurring right at home as family members and friends put forward 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? I believe humanity has greater potential to be more thoughtful and compassionate. 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. Similarly, to encourage and support the rise of facilitating conversation. For instance, when two or more parties are simply attacking 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. Diversity can bring certain innovations and social progress yet also my lack unity where tension and contention reside. 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!
It is additionally 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 ideas or perspectives do not align”? In mediation, divided parties often resolve major disputes by showing the willingness to step into the other sides shoes. To that end, as a whole, popularizing humility and critical-thinking could help to pave the way towards understanding. Sometimes giving credit where credit is due goes a long way when building a culture of cooperation. We should respect and honor our different beliefs while recognizing that we’re all changing the 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 also enables them to look more closely and honestly at what they may be missing in their own viewpoint. When people decide to work on disagreement with buy-in and respect, new insights and better solutions become tangible options. It might be said that it is beneficial to fine-tuning or strengthening one’s viewpoints to examine those that do not share the same stance. To this end, it appears to be critical that we 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.
Allowing space for mistakes, errors, misunderstandings, and differences to occur can be helpful where meaningful disagreement is concerned. Diversity can be strength. That said, establishing consensus and trust may present hurdles. Perhaps we might think that the forecast for patience and care looks grim these days. This seemingly indicates a need to put dignity and forgiveness front and center. To give rise to a stronger culture of respect and demonstrate meaningful disagreement. If not just for accomplishing our own interests and needs, at least for the sake of children who observe some adults throw 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.
Revised on 07/30/2021