It is easy to lose hope that we can bridge our country’s ideological divide. More than ever, we must try, but we need to do something different to create unity; we must listen and understand those who differ from us. Asking someone to explain their opinion is a significant first step towards that understanding. Doing so is a sign of respect, it says you want to know more. But listening is a choice. If you look for the opportunity to interrupt with your counter arguments while they are talking, that is not listening.
Ground rules for open mindedness
Listening is founded on the mutual respect and acceptance of one another’s right to believe what they must. Here are a few rules to remember;
1) Just because someone disagrees with you does not make them evil, unethical or stupid.
2) Everyone is shaped by their experiences, environment and by the people who come into their lives. Like you, people who differ have their reasons for what they believe. This is why it is important to ask for an explanation and get he/she to reveal what is behind their opinion. You may find that their perspective makes a heck of a lot more sense than you imagined.
3) There is not a single person today who was born a fountain of all knowledge. The same Higher Consciousness that lives in and informs you is also part of them. Our role is to bridge the areas with one another where we can be united rather than focus on our differences. There are those who spurn compromise, calling it an unsatisfying process where no one wins, yet what we sorely need today is the ability to listen to both sides and devise an agreeable compromise.
4) Truth is a collective agreement. Judging there is an ultimate truth is an illusion. This is as useless as trying to define the Higher Consciousness present in the world. Thinking we can define truth puts parameters on something that is always developing. The truth we follow today is more comprehensive than the truth our parents and our ancestors knew because we discovered new evidence. The truth we see tomorrow will result from the society’s collective agreement. It is up to us to open our hearts and minds and listen to what those who differ need to say, so we may collaborate on the solutions that have value for all of us.
5) Choose the values of love and reject those of fear. When speaking of compromise to form a collective truth, I am not advocating we incorporate into our agreement sexism, racism, homophobia or any beliefs that discriminate, harm and devalue human beings and living things. Differentiating between love and fear is not that hard. Love includes generosity, kindness, courage, understanding and accepting differences, inclusion, open-mindedness, justice, fairness, empathy, truthfulness and patience. Fear incorporates hatred, violence, jealousy, revenge, entitlement, deceit, envy, paranoia and arrogance. You get the picture?
However, don’t avoid people who express themselves with the qualities of fear, they need to be heard. We need to understand the basis of their fear so we can shine a light for them that leads to a better path.
6) Regardless of your political leanings, don’t support the fear mongers and those who try to divide us. They do this out of selfishness; they see benefit in keeping us divided. They use division to raise money and further their individual causes. Support instead those who acknowledge we have something to learn from each other and that united we can better succeed.
We will not bridge our divide if we keep trying to win the argument. Our effort should go towards moving the needle from division to mutual respect for one another. It is only when our actions show we value everyone that healing can begin. You don’t have to save the entire world, start by trying to understand the minds of those around you.