Friday, November 11, 2016

Making Sense of It All

I have to say, I'm really glad that I opened up about my opinions on politics!  I got a good amount of feedback on it - as I suspected, I'm not the only person who feels the way that I do about Trump's election.

Some of my friends have reached out to me online recently to share their feelings. As usual, I like making myself available to help troubleshoot stressful situations for my friends.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of people I care about are feeling angry and hurt and sad and confused about the whole thing.  For the first time ever, I'm feeling more motivated to engage people in political conversations because I can sense that what I have to say is somehow helpful for others who might agree with me and not know how to say it.

I don't have any interest in selling my political opinions on anyone else.  My experiences are what form my opinions and I have respect for the idea that that should apply to everyone.  But I am most definitely down to help other people process what happened in order to find a way to channel their feelings appropriately!

"The solution to almost every problem between any two people is to Communicate Better." - me

A friend of mine gave me a writing prompt:

"I've heard/seen a lot of the sentiment that the outrage people are feeling can be channeled into causing positive change.  I've been delving into new spiritual teachings recently, and a unifying idea seems to be "what you resist persists".  In other words, meaningful change can only come from a place of love.

What can I say to people who say "I'm not interested in working with a bunch of bigots" or "I'm going to protest this election" to get them to step back and actually view this as an opportunity? Like how do you actually transmute anger into something loving?"

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I've seen so much of this on Facebook and I think I can help. :)

The way I see it, there are two types of conversations.  This doesn't even apply to just politics, this applies to pretty much all verbal communication.  There are "productive conversations", and "destructive conversations".

The goal of a productive conversation is to connect with others in a positive way that generates solutions. Sometimes the easiest way to do this is simply to ask someone else how they feel, and then show that you care about the answer. That's really all there is to it!  In almost every case, if treat other people in a way that shows that you like and respect them, they will appreciate it and reciprocate it.  Once you establish that you care about the some of the same things, it becomes a lot easier to feel emotionally invested in how the other person feels.

On the other hand, a destructive conversation is used to justify not connecting with others in a negative way that focuses on problems.  This includes, but is not limited to:  complaining, blaming, name-calling, making sweeping generalizations about others, making threats, starting arguments, and trying to force other people to admit that their opinions are wrong.  These things almost always come from a place of feeling hurt.

It's possible to have a productive conversation even if it comes from a place of disagreement.  In fact, the best ones usually do.  I've often said that the people closest to me in life are the ones that I argue the best with!

Similarly, it's possible to have a destructive conversation even if it comes from a place of agreement.  When someone shares a dishonest article meant to manipulate people into an emotional reaction - like "10 Reasons Donald Trump Is Like Hitler" - what does that do, really?  It's not informing anyone of anything or motivating people into action.  The only reason that articles like that exist is to subtly trick people into taking an extreme stance on something, which in turn encourages people to form groups around their strong opinions. I would argue that that type of communication is extremely destructive, and I see it ultimately as the reason this election was so polarized.

The opportunity that you have here is to learn to recognize the difference between the two types of conversations, and to focus on having productive ones instead of destructive ones.  To put it simply, the key to transmuting anger into love is empathy.  You need to see the other side for what they are - complex humans who have reasons for feeling the way that they do.  The more you can do this for others, the more likely they are to do it for you.

Apologies if this post comes off as kind of cheesy. =^_^=

So why do people make statements like the ones you mentioned?

When people say that they want to protest the election, it comes from a place of wanting to protest the idea of a leader who doesn't represent their ideals.  That's a natural feeling, and I think they should feel that.  Hell, I feel that.  To them I would ask them if protesting the election is the thing they can do that will best repair the country.  If they do, I would support their decision even if I didn't necessarily agree with them because they're only doing what they feel is right.

The reason that someone would characterize all Trump supporters as "bigots" is because it allows them to internally make sense of their negative feelings.  It's a lot easier to mentally process people who would vote for Trump as ignorant than it is to stop and consider that they might have valid reasons to feel the way they do.  People on all sides do this because it's a lot easier to justify our problems as other peoples' fault than it is to work on an answer.

Try and engage people of all points of view and make a good faith effort to understand their perspectives, especially those of Trump supporters.  The harder it is to do, the more there is to gain from it!  That's how you turn anger into love :)  It's contagious, too - when your friend calls writes off Trump supporters as "bigots", they'll be more likely to listen to you when you tell them you're friends with some of them and understand where they're coming from.

If you make it all about changing other people's minds, you'll find yourself frustrated when other people don't want to let you.  Instead, make it about empathy and a desire to be able to see through every possible perspective, and I guarantee it will help you feel better in the long run. Because honestly, if you think about it - the most realistic chance we have to fixing to all of this is to end the polarization of opinions and listen to each other, and the best way to be optimistic about the future is to take part in the solution.

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