Growing up in Germany, I remember my Dad subscribing to a weekly magazine that largely represented political views different from our own. When I asked him about this, he responded “I like to know how the other side thinks!”
It used to be common advice to “avoid politics and religion” in most social situations or during work-related conversations. And that was before we entered an extremely polarized media environment where much of society primarily consumes news and information designed to reinforce our existing points of view.
Tragically, the daily echo chamber of news alerts on our phones, the opinions expressed on our favorite television shows, and the views shared on our social media channels have served to divide families, communities, nations, and even the world. Very few people actually are exposed to how the other side thinks. We don’t feel listened to or understood.
There is a growing lack of trust that has resulted in a major disconnect between the people and the politicians. Sadly, some politicians have sought to exploit this sad state of affairs for their own benefit.
I am not just talking about the political situation in the United States and the pending impeachment of Donald Trump but also Great Britain and Brexit, Germany and the migrant crisis, the street violence in Hong Kong, and even the social unrest in Chile.
With the year-end holiday season ahead, many of us already are dreading the uncomfortable political conversation at the Thanksgiving Dinner table or during the company holiday party. We think up strategies on how to avoid those conversations.
I encourage you to do the opposite.
Try as hard as you can NOT to judge. Try to understand. Actively listen. Make eye contact. Attempt to really get to the root of why someone believes what they believe.