Tomorrow is July 1. Normally I don’t wait on pins and needles for the coming of a new month. This month, like this time in our history, is different. Tomorrow the governor of my state is supposed to announce the plan for reopening schools later this month.
I do not envy his job. He has a lot of constituents who all have different ideas about how this should play out. People like me and my colleagues want to go back to school. My kids need the structure, safety, and comfort that our school provides. Their parents need to work to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.
There has been some talk that maybe it is unsafe to go back. We have people who have compromised immune systems. Some of our kiddos live with elderly grandparents who could be at risk of contracting Covid-19. And, let’s face it, there’s a lot that we don’t know about how to handle this hot mess of a pandemic.
I’m sure that whatever he decides will come under fire. And that fire will be epic and rage for a good long while. That’s where we find ourselves today. In a world of absolutes where it’s my way or the highway. No compromise. No discussion. I’m right so you have to be wrong.
In my humble opinion, it sucks.
It’s so hard to have an honest discussion with anybody on topics that you may not agree upon. Maybe it’s always been there but remained hidden. Or maybe our lives just were not that interesting.
At my Pollyanna core, I know we have to come to a consensus on a lot of the issues that currently separate us. But right here, right now, it’s hard to summon the bravery needed to have a conversation with somebody who feels differently than you do.
The key? Listening with kindness. Being thoughtful in our discussions. That’s the only way to make the change that we so desperately need right now.
How Can We Move Forward?
If we are going to get out of this quagmire we’ve created for ourselves, we need to change a few things.
- Understand that we all come from different places and that it’s okay to disagree. It’s not an attack on your belief system or your person. We can respect someone’s views without embracing them. Beliefs are learned not housed in your DNA. Maybe it’s better to ask somebody what their story is as a way to understand how their beliefs formed the way they did.
- Listen for understanding, not to reply. You know you do this. I do it too. I’m in a conversation and I hear a phrase or a word and a great zinger pops into my head. And…I’ve stopped listening for anything but a break so I can jump in and stick it to whomever I’m talking with. It’s not something I’m proud of but I’m working on it. You can too. Actively listen and before you say anything consider what the other person is saying.
- Consider different sources of information. My youngest son told me a story earlier this week. When he and my eldest son were in high school, my eldest flipped between CNN and Fox News at every break. It drove my youngest crazy. When he asked my eldest why he kept jumping, my eldest told him that there is bias everywhere and that you have to get multiple sides of a story in order to make up your mind. Many people don’t do that. They search for information in agreement with their beliefs. Confirmation bias is alive and well in our media-rich society.
- Be kind. For the love of all that is holy, can we please try to be kind to one another? Stop giving the stink eye. We all see it. Quit judging. Show compassion and come at everything from a place of love.
I know that there will be people who may not like this message. And I know that some stuff that people believe is just wrong. It is. There’s no way around it. And while I believe in honesty, how can you change their perspective or the narrative if others just shut down when you talk at them?
I’m a firm believer in speaking your truth. But to do it without kindness just adds to the noise of the world. We all could use a little more love and kindness and a lot less noise. Know that those who scream the loudest are probably struggling the most. Show them kindness. Show them the love you would like to receive yourself. And then, only then, we may be able to move this world forward.