I’ve had a lot of folks email me about how to manage their anxiety, anger and fear regarding this current election.
I have a few thoughts I would like to share with you on that:
1. I am no expert. I am figuring this out as I go along too. I do know that I’ve had LOTS of practice over the years in creating places where shifts in mindset can occur (including my own)…and am joyfully (I know weird right?) beginning to see how this awful political cycle may actually be an opportunity for all of us to dig deep into what really matters, both in our own lives and the life of our beloved America.
2. Two minute in-person exchanges, split-second assumptions (i.e. Bumper stickers, flags etc), memes (half of which aren’t true if you google their original source) and exchanges on social media have, in my experience rarely brought me to a peaceful resolve on politics.
3. Family members who hail from “the other political side” have, from what I’ve heard and experienced, created the greatest source of pain in people’s lives. I think a good place to start with that one is to realize you aren’t alone. I have sat through Red Boot meetings and witnessed people breaking down into tears as they mourn the loss (or friction) of relationships between family members.
If you are still with me and reading this here’s a few recommendations you can take or leave. ❤️💜💙
1. Breathe and be still. When confronted by an opposing point of view…pause. Count to ten. If on social media, decide whether commenting is effective. Ask yourself, “Who will be influenced by my commentary?” “Why do I feel a need to respond?” “What is the point of my response?” There is no right or wrong answer. I’ve just discovered that for me…there is much to be gained by being intentional with my remarks. That sometimes means not making them at all.
2. If you and a family member or close friend are at odds and this is disturbing to you … Ask yourself what matters most. If you want to heal or pursue a relationship with this particular family member…reach out to him-her. This is not a quick fix and it’s not going away.
Set aside intentional time (more than an hour) and be upfront.
“I don’t like the way politics is dividing us. I would like to talk with you in person (FaceTime if they live far away) and try to understand. Our relationship is important to me.”
If he/she refuses, try one more time. “I’m sorry that we’ve gotten to this point. I promise you when we get together, I won’t try to change your mind or convince you of anything. I just want us to have a relationship.”
When you do get the time, recognize in advance that this conversation isn’t about winning. It’s about loving. It’s about building a bridge. It’s about being curious.
When you do sit down with this person, begin by internally inviting peace into the space. Be prepared to listen. To pause before you speak. To give a pause after he/she speaks. To slow down the encounter. To really listen with an open heart. To let silence be a significant part of the exchange. Don’t interrupt. Let him/her get all the way through what he/she is saying. When you do speak ALWAYS (yes I capitalized that) use “I” statements. “The way I see it”, “It’s been my experience”…stick to “I” experiences you’ve lived and breathed in your own life. Make it personal. Bring your story and feelings to the table.
Here are some questions to ponder:
“Okay…so I am wildly curious to understand why you are voting for __________. Tell me about that. I am just going to listen.”
“As you know, I am not voting for _______. How do you think we got to here, you and me? It’s wild how we have such different views on this election. What is that about?”
“What matters most to you in his election. What do you hope to see as an outcome when it is over?”
“What scares you about this election?”
“I love you and while I don’t agree with you on this, it’s important to me to bring more love into the world. So I figure starting with us is a good place. What do you think about that?”
I know these suggested tidbits may seem obvious but here’s the deal…they aren’t easy. If they were, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in.
But what if the person I am speaking with begins spouting off a slew of bigoted statements?
I encourage you to do what feels right, but here is what has worked for me.
I sit in silence. An uncomfortable silence. I let those words speak for themselves. I hold their gaze. No response. I hold the space. And decide…what matters.
And this, my friends is THAT moment of discernment…that moment that only you can know “what next.”
I will share that for me, if I remain silent, often times the other person, will out themselves on these harmful words. After a few seconds in silence, he/she may say “I guess that came off as pretty harsh. I’m sorry about that” or something like that.
I also know that if I’ve been truly open and truly curious up to this point…I can share, from a genuine space, how words such as those hurt.
“I’m listening to you and I am trying so hard not to judge, but words like that…words like that really hurt people” and then I might name a friend or two who has been hurt by words and ideas such as those. Share a story that demonstrates how those words hurt. Make it personal. Make it real.
And then be still.
I try to trust the process. Breathe. Pause. Not jump up. Not abandon him/her. I try to be present. (In fact…this is how I show love to another person.)
Y’all this is tough. Real tough. Intense. It’s about what matters…There is no right or wrong answer to that. There is, though, YOUR answer to that.
I know I may be an anomaly during this political season, but I believe that each encounter matters. If I can bring peace and understanding and healing to one relationship then perhaps it is possible for more peace and understanding and healing to come forward in the world.