Who is undermining the society we so cherish? The far left? The far right? Trump? The media? The internet? George Soros? The Koch Brothers? The list is endless, and everyone reading this post has someone or some group in mind (including me).
We may not agree on who to blame for the current state of affairs, nor on what is the greatest threat we face. But perhaps we can agree on an essential step forward: we need to be talking with each other more.
Consider this: Research has shown that approximately 50% of communication takes place through body language, 40% through tone of voice, and 10% through words. This means that if we are trying to understand “the other” through what we read online, the field is wide open for misinterpretation.
Furthermore, many editorial or op-ed writers in reputable news sources such as the Wall Street Journal and New York Times claim to understand the motivations and mindset of opposing views; they explain authoritatively exactly how twisted the thinking is on the other side. Because my views are in the middle and I spend a lot of time talking with people on both sides, I see how wrong many of their statements are. Sadly, these skewed views of “the other” spread like wildfire and shape our understanding of the world in which we live.
As a society, we are weakened by our diminished ability to talk meaningfully about our differences. This, in my view, is a significant threat. We give away our power and agency when we buy into the “otherizing” that is practiced daily in both public and private spheres, and by assuming we understand the other better than we do.
We need to talk to each other about what we care about, rather than about who said what to whom on TV or the internet. We need to stop discussing their views and motivations and instead talk about our own. We need to build (or re-build) relationships, face to face.
Every drop of effort will have a ripple effect, beyond what we see. A way forward rests with each and every one of us.
Who will you reach out to?
Copyright © 2018 Sharon V. Kristjanson. All rights reserved.