This year’s election cycle has been especially brutal. Not only have the candidates done a great job of demonstrating “how not to act”, but many of us normal folk have intentionally or unintentionally gotten caught up in the fray, especially on social media. Some people took the opportunity to clean up their friends list, both online and in real life. Others are a little shell-shocked at the ugly turn and wish to regain at least some modicum of civility. This post is for the latter group, those who’d like to mend relationships that have been damaged by the divisive rhetoric and actions.
Stealing some pages from the negotiations handbook, here are a few simple things you can do – starting today, election day 2016, in our communities and families – to mend those fences.
Start by taking a good long look in the mirror. Consider what you really want. Do you want to be right, to win at all costs? Or do you want to figure out how we can all, as a community and a nation, move forward together? Are your actions supporting your core beliefs or do they feel out of whack? Make a note of any inconsistencies. How can you change your thoughts and actions to support your goals?
The next steps are only for those who are very clear on what you want and what behaviors you are willing to embrace to get it. Only then are you ready to look at others and your relationships. (A word of caution: there may be some apologies in your future…)
Separate the position from the person. Especially if emotions have gotten out of hand, this is a good way to neutralize your approach. Are politics the single facet to your relationship? Probably not…so…What do you like and admire about the person? What do you enjoy doing with them? How do your differences add depth to your relationship?
Re-establish rapport. Acknowledge your differences and describe how you’d like your relationship to look moving forward. Focus on commonalities. See if they agree. Listen.
Have the “what happened” conversation. This conversation focuses on the impact, not the intention. What’s crystal clear to one person may not be so clear to the other. And who knows? The other person may have unwittingly been acting out of accordance with their own core values. You’ll never know until you have this conversation.
This leads to the “feelings” conversation. Yes, feelings do play a part in negotiations, especially in personal relationships. Once you understand how your actions made the other feel, you can take care in the future to consider how to express yourself and actually be heard. Listen. Restate and summarize to make sure you understand.
Plan ahead. In times of stress or when the stakes are high, even the most self-aware person tends to act according to their most basic instincts; this does not always serve us well when interacting with others. Acknowledge this may happen and plan for how you will collectively handle the situation when it occurs.
Expand the pie. This is the literal and figurative sweet spot. This is where you openly and collectively work together toward your “new normal”. Brainstorm! Use “Yes, and…” language instead of “Yes, but…” Play the “what if” game. Before long, you’ll probably be laughing together again and relishing a veritable explosion of pie!
Who knows what you’ll cook up next? I’d love to hear…
I’ll leave you with this song sung by Andie MacDowell from the movie Michael. The scene was filmed just down the road at Gruene Hall…can you believe it’s been 20 years? I hope it makes you smile!