Many years ago, I conducted a workshop called “You’ll Always Find What You’re Looking For”. This was before the Law of Attraction gained popularity, and my audience was a group of sales people who seemed to always be at odds with the operations department. Relations between departments had degenerated to the point where they felt simply couldn’t work together any more…but their jobs required them to do so. Tensions were high, there was a lot of finger-pointing and calling “the others” unreasonable. Sound familiar?
During my quite-lame-by-today’s-standards PowerPoint presentation, group activities and discussion, the sales organization began to change the way they looked at operations. They made lists of ways they could support each other instead of tearing each other down. They started noticing their similarities and common goals instead of focusing on their differences. They stopped for a moment and took a BREATH. They started to initiate change, positive change.
Fast forward to today, with our politically charged and divisive environment of protests and counter-protests, news and fake news, name-calling and denigration, inflammatory headline and social media posts. It’s easy to feel like we’re never going to get Humpty Dumpty put back together again. But you know what? We can.
We just need to sssssllllloooowwww ddddooowwwnnn. Take some DEEP breaths. Reflect on our own actions. Ask ourselves: is the trajectory I’m on one I’m enjoying, or am I always in a stew? Am I fueling the fire or doing my part to cool it down?
Take a step back and consider: How’s your blood pressure? When’s the last time you had a good belly laugh? Have you gathered lately with people whose politics are different from yours and talked about something else? What about just saying “no” to social media for a day or more and taking a brisk walk instead? Are you being kind to yourself and to others, just for the heck of it? Do you like the way you’re feeling right now? We have more control over our immediate environment than it may seem.
I’m not suggesting we bury our heads in the sand; just take a small break until we regain some equilibrium. I know my outlook is much more positive when I jump off the gerbil wheel for a while. Then whether you start by sticking your toe back in the water or diving back into the media/social media fray head-first, thinking critically can help you keep your sanity. Here are some tips:
Consider the source. Do they have an agenda? This alone is not cause to discredit, but should be considered when analyzing. Any points made or stands taken that support their predispositions should be scrutinized logically.
Are they a subject matter expert on the topic being addressed? Or are they motivated by emotion and idealism only, ignoring facts?
Are they making broad, sweeping statements, generalizations about an issue or a group of people? If so, they are glossing over some details.
What’s not being said or shown? Is the entire story being told or is it carefully edited to support one side or the other? Is the message out of context?
Are they sticking to the point? Or are they grouping lots of different stories together just to stir the pot?
Are they willing to listen to other thoughtful points of view? Or are they simply trying to be “right” at all costs?
No matter how objective we humans try to be, we will still see things through our own past experiences and according to our own biases. I’m not naïve enough to suggest we’re all going to suddenly start agreeing on every topic. What I’m offering is a way to positively impact your immediate environment.
Which brings us to the hardest part of all – taking a good long look at “the man/woman in the mirror”. Turn the above questions around and ask:
Do *I* have an agenda?
Am *I* a SME or am I propelled by irrationality?
Am *I* speaking/thinking in generalizations?
Am *I* telling the whole story or editing it to fit my purposes?
Am *I* sticking to the point?
Am *I* willing to listen to others?
Only the brave will do this last part. But I encourage you to try. I know I will. Be honest with yourself. It's harder than it sounds, so find an accountability buddy who will keep you on track. Real, positive change will ripple throughout our world when we – as individuals - make these small shifts in perspective. After all, we’ve all got brains, right? AND thumbs! Humpty Dumpty has a chance after all.
Image Credit: Lonnie Easterling, SpudComics http://spudcomics.com/2011/08/11/walking-on-egg-shells/