Here. We. Go.
The Iowa Caucuses took place earlier this week. We can now say – officially – that the 2016 presidential cycle is under way … except it has been underway for more than a year now.
As if they’re not already, things are about to get crazier. Over the next few months many relationships will be strained, families will be divided, neighbors will cease to speak and we’ll be reminded, time and again, that our country will ‘go to hell in a handbasket’ if this candidate – or that candidate gets elected.
We are a nation divided.
We are divided and we’ll remain so unless we change our behavior. We are divided because:
- We don’t engage in conversations anymore;
- We believe that changing our mind equals weakness;
- We put too much weight on what other people think;
- We’ve given up hope.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll share my thoughts on each of these reasons but first, let’s talk about our inability to engage in conversations.
When was the last time you had meaningful conversation with someone? When was the last time you truly engaged in a conversation where you weren’t trying to control the outcome? When was the last time you actually listen to the person you were in conversation with instead of preparing your response?
If you are like me, you’re most-likely guilty on several of the counts listed above.
Lets face it, It’s hard to be in a conversation. It’s hard to let others speak. It’s not easy to “seek first to understand, then to be understood” as Stephen Covey encouraged us to do as part of his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Doing all of that requires us to be vulnerable. It requires us to make it about someone else. It requires us to be curious and be okay with the possibility that what someone else has to say might just bring value to our lives.
When I’m in conversation with a guest on my podcast or when I’m in conversation with someone I trust implicitly, I find all of these things easy to do. In those moments, it’s so easy to be vulnerable and open to new ideas and perspectives. I find it easy to “check my ego” and let the conversation unfold. Truth is, when I do that, I’m never disappointed. I always leave the conversation a better person.
On the flip side, there are times when I’m not inclined to be patient, kind and vulnerable. In those moments, I’m quick to judge, fail at listening and my ego gets in the way. I’m more concerned with what my response will be and dismiss what the other person is saying – often without having heard a word from them. Worse, is when I avoid a conversation altogether because I don’t even want to consider what this person might have to say.
Break The Cycle
It won’t change overnight, but we all have a role to play in breaking the cycle when it comes to being a divided nation. One conversation at a time, we can help bring us all closer together.
Will we all agree? No.
Will every conversation you engage in leave you inspired? No.
But every time we choose to be vulnerable or choose to listen and intentionally engage in an exchange of ideas or “check our ego” at the door, we are strengthening the fabric that connects all of us.
One conversation at a time is how we can work our way to being a nation less divided. But let’s not worry too much about the entire nation, but focus our energy on the community where we are. Start where you are and remember that through conversations relationship are formed and life happens and finds meaning.
This is the first part in series on this subject. Check back next week for part two.