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Roaring river

For months, I’ve heard many people say, “I can’t wait until the elections are over.” While I understand the sentiment (it’s been an exhausting political season), all the rifts and hard feelings have not magically mended with the conclusion of the presidential election. If anything, the nation is as fraught as ever. How can we possibly bridge the gulf between people and start working together once more? What can you, as an individual, do?

I have a few thoughts:

1. Focus on People

No matter how different someone’s ideology is from your own, there’s a person behind the ideology. Start seeing that person as someone who loves and is loved–someone who has a family, friends, hopes and fears, financial troubles, and health issues. This is a person who pays a mortgage or rent, occasionally burns the pizza, and gets annoyed when their socks get wet from the rain.

In short, see the human behind the ideology. If we all started to do that, I guarantee our conversations would become more civil and we would find some common ground.

2. Focus on the Work

When it comes to co-workers, you may not agree 100% of the time, but you can always turn your attention to your common work assignments. When we collaborate with others and focus our energy on a shared project or initiative, we can set aside political differences for a time and start seeing others as co-workers, collaborators, and co-brainstormers. Recognizing that we CAN work alongside others and agree on certain things (no matter how trivial) is a big step toward mending larger rifts.

3. Spend Time With Individuals

One way to bridge a gap between yourself and someone with whom you do NOT see eye-to-eye is to meet with that person individually. In my experience, when you’re sitting across the table from someone, it is easy to find at least a few things you have in common, and focus on those things instead of your differences. You might talk about your family, your pets, the latest book you’ve read or show you’ve watched, or even the weather. Though you might think such surface-level conversations are meaningless, they’re truly not. Bridging gaps takes time, and it starts with individuals seeing the humanity in one another.

4. Find Commonalities

Instead of focusing on the things that divide us, focus on what unites us. At our core, most of us want the same things: Clean air and water, a healthy family, safety, good schools for the next generations, a decent job, affordable housing…the list goes on. Though many of us agree on the big picture goals, we get bogged down by how to meet those goals. THAT is where much division comes into play. We disagree about the methods for reaching those universal goals.

Once you realize that, you begin to see that “the other side” might not be so different from you after all. They probably want the same things in their lives, they just disagree on the means to get there.

Yes, I DO understand this is an over-simplification. Some differences between people and parties are significant, and it may be nearly impossible to reconcile them. However, I still think we can find commonalities between ourselves and those on the other side of the spectrum. We just have to look for them.

Though you may be feeling like a small fish in a wild, raging ocean, take heart! If we all decide to work toward relative harmony and understanding, we can get there eventually. Start recognizing the human behind the ideology, and go from there. Your example CAN make a difference.


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We live in a world where kindness is often lacking. We tend to dwell on differences–the things that divide us–instead of finding commonalities or learning to listen to others’ points of view. The tendency to see people as “others” has led to many a fighting match on social media, and that tension is now reaching a fever pitch with the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

In this contentious and often heated atmosphere, it’s easy for people to lose their tempers, become defensive, and begin name-calling and initiating personal attacks. This kind of response will lead nowhere, of course, but it is a natural, knee-jerk reaction.

How do you step back from the fray and choose kindness over maliciousness?

1. See Humanity

Instead of making snap judgments and generalizations, I encourage you to pause, truly consider the other person’s point of view, and begin to develop understanding and empathy. It helps to view that person behind the screen as a HUMAN BEING–someone with a family, pets, a mortgage, grocery bills, and health concerns. Someone with hopes and fears.

When we start to see Twitter usernames and Facebook profiles as people (bots excluded!), we can begin to treat them with dignity. Surely, if you were having a face-to-face conversation with someone at a restaurant, you wouldn’t begin calling them nasty names (hopefully not, anyway!). You would do your best to keep the conversation civil or steer it in another direction.

2. Know When to Fold ’em

Sometimes, stating (or reiterating) your point of view is futile. If someone has demonstrated that they are wholly unreceptive to your perspective, gracefully exit the conversation. End on a high note; something like: “Thank you for your thoughts. I don’t agree, but I’m happy you shared them with me.” Then, leave.

Exiting toxic conversations isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s simply recognizing that you’re talking past one another and going nowhere. Better to excuse yourself and move on.

3. Take the High Road

When others resort to name-calling and shouting, don’t go there. Vow to take the high road and be the adult in the room. Hopefully, your behavior will inspire others to do the same but, if not, there’s no shame in ditching the conversation (see point #2). Better to spend your time and energy elsewhere.

4. Pay Attention to Tone

When you post something on social media, is your tone contentious and one-sided? Or is it respectful/factual? If you’re belittling or putting down a group of people, that will only invite arguments and cause contention.

Rather, stick to the facts and avoid personal attacks. No one likes to hear that their beliefs make them “evil” or “stupid.”

5. Engage Others One on One

The best way to truly understand another’s perspective is to engage them one on one, in private. Start a private chat, or take it a step further and invite them to talk over a video chat or in person (if they are a friend, and if you feel comfortable doing so). Let the person know that you’re aiming to understand, and you hope that they, too, will be open to hearing your point of view.

6. Make Kind Gestures

There is a big, wide world beyond social media. Let your kindness emanate beyond the screen, and practice little acts of kindness. Rake an elderly neighbor’s lawn, pay for groceries for the young mother at the grocery store, donate your time or money to a nonprofit, etc., etc.

If you’d like to show kindness to your colleagues or friends, send them personalized notes, telling them why you are grateful for their presence in your life.

In the world of social media, share uplifting, kindness-focused pieces of news and pictures. You don’t have to sugar coat things, but it IS an act of kindness to give people joy and hope every once in a while!

These actions (whether in person or virtual) have a way of spreading. Make an extra effort to be kind this month, and notice how it tends to comes back to you.

The world needs your kindness. Let’s all make an effort to find common ground. Take the high road. Reach out. Be a kind, decent human being.


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