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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.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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