The word politics has come to imply profound differences in beliefs, unresolved disagreements, and passionate people left feeling frustrated or apathetic. Conversations with folks outside our political ideologies have suddenly become burdensome and often avoided altogether for the sake of keeping relationships amicable.
As alternative breakers and active citizens, we know that we can (and must!) reframe conflict into an opportunity for growth rather than attempting to avoid a potentially negative interaction. (Interested? Chapter schools, join us next week to hear more about using conflict to build relationships.) With this shift in our viewpoint, we can come to understand that we need different approaches to the troubles of the world and we need to share ideas and opinions to find the best possible solutions. We’re bound to encounter components of debate within the practice of dialogue, but we need to practice using our differences productively to build stronger communities and a stronger nation.
“The strongest democracies flourish from frequent and lively debate, but they endure when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside smaller differences in service of a greater purpose.” - Barack Obama
Every single person is of worth in this democracy. No feelings or experiences are invalid. And while each of us has something to contribute to the growth of a community - the hard part is decentering ourselves to acknowledge that other perspectives deserve a place at the table, as well. If we find ways to hear others’ stories (regardless of what their beliefs are), we may be quicker to come to a common understanding and move forward to create better solutions for all people.
So take a step back from that scary word “politics” and embrace the notion that if you are a person inhabiting a space, (guess what - we all are) then you have something to contribute and you have a vital role to play in your community. The next time you find yourself venturing into a dialogue based on difference, try to speak from your feelings and experience and find ways to ask the opposing voice to speak from their feelings and lived experience too. Decenter yourself, listen to understand, and practice patience in finding (or solace in not finding) a solution, together.