Polarised perspectives and critical thinking come naturally to us as humans. We’re wired to look for threats and defend ourselves. Our ego defines itself by what it is NOT. We’re comfortable living in black and white. This and that. Us and them. Wrong and right. Yes and no. We lean into conflict and our opinions become razor sharp, cutting through connections so that “clear” lines are drawn. It’s easier that way. Or so we’ve been told.
No doubt, there are plenty of things to take a stand against these days. I’m all for opinions and using your voice, but sometimes we disagree as a reflex and respond without even listening.
We spend a great deal of energy creating divisions in our lives. But…be discerning. Be careful that you don’t become so outspoken and opinionated that you alienate yourself from connection.
The truth is, if we want the world to change, we need to start conversations, not end them.
So check in with yourself: How much of your day do you spend in resistance, in disagreement, in opposition? How much of your time do you spend looking for what’s wrong, criticising, correcting or countering? Is disagreeing a reflex? Is defence your first reaction?
What if we did a little experiment and took a holiday – for an hour or a day – from the posturing and opposing? What if we listened more. What if we seized opportunities to unite rather than divide. What if we gave the benefit of the doubt a little more often. What if we softened the blades of our opinions. What if we took things less personally. What if we asked more questions. What if we laughed a little more. What if we noticed what we have in common – and celebrated it.
Sift through the moments of your day and ask yourself, are there occasions to say these words more often: “Yes” or “I agree” or “Go on…” or “tell me more?” Are there opportunities to offer a compliment instead of pumping out criticism? Are there times when you could listen with more curiosity and compassion and less jumping-to-conclusions? Could you fling open the door instead of defending the fort?
Try it out and see what happens. You might be surprised by how much commonality and connection is really there when you lean in and listen gently and generously. It’s a harder path, but one that leads to higher ground.
P.S. If this resonates with you, and you’re keen to explore the ideas of belonging and connection in these often polarised times, I highly recommend Brené Brown’s latest book, Braving The Wilderness. It’s an essential read.