Dr. Harville Hendrix, Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt,
No matter where you stand on the political aisle, we can all agree we are working through one of the most politically divisive times in our history. Many individuals can no longer visit some of the most popular social media platforms without seeing “virtual-fights” breaking out, which is leading to huge rifts between spouses, friends, co-workers and family.
It is not a stretch to say our country is a divided nation but, more importantly, we are now families, spouses and friends divided.
While some people cannot accept difference to the point where it is deemed as combative (and almost dangerous), the hope is your home life doesn’t have to be that way solely because the socio-political climate over the last year has become more conflicted. The reality is, by using a methodology called Safe Conversations, people can have very different points of view that doesn’t have to lead to social unrest.
Safe Conversations allows individuals to talk without criticizing, listen without judging, and connect beyond differences. Based on the most advanced relational and neurological science, Safe Conversations seeks to interrupt the downward cycle of family fragmentation that can reduce violence, strengthen communities and ultimately raise the joy index of a city.
The following tips provides a starting point on how to have a healthy and productive conversation with individuals who have opposing viewpoints:
1. The first step is to make an appointment to honor boundaries. This appointment will allow everyone to gather and acknowledge each other’s viewpoints without starting a potentially difficult conversation off-the-cuff. Respect is crucial in setting up an appointment to honor boundaries.
2. Once you choose a designated time to honor boundaries, identify the topic of opposition. The topic needs to be truly defined and specific for the brain to not jump to the human species’ genetic “paranoid” state of mind. Think about it this way – when a person tells you they would like to talk, what is typically your first thought? Most of us jump to an exaggerated conclusion and begin to think of worst case scenarios. By defining the topic prior to communicating, it removes this apprehension for all individuals.
3. Next, implement “I” language when talking. Meaning – always say “I” rather than “you” when having an oppositional conversation. Not only is this called the Sender Responsibility, it removes any blame away from the one receiving the sender’s opposing beliefs.
4. Individuals should also conduct a tactic called mirroring when someone talks. For example, once an individual is done stating his/her viewpoint, you respond back, “What I am hearing is XYZ.” This tactic allows for everyone to maintain accuracy, while also ensuring that you understand the Sender’s viewpoints.
5. Lastly, acknowledge that the other person makes sense. Even though you might not agree with the individual’s viewpoint, you must acknowledge that their opinion is validated. From this moment, you can then share your point of view after validating their first point of view. A bridge has now been created between said individuals, and two opposing realities are now interfacing without judgment. Ultimately, the goal of having this type of conversation is to have both realities change without judgment.
It’s absolutely possible to fully connect with people despite your differences, but to open that door, you have to believe it’s possible.
A negative attitude is the fastest roadblock to productive conversation, so over the next 30 days, try taking the Zero Negativity Challenge. Teach yourself to notice negativity and then “redo the transaction” by mentally changing gears to become positive again. There is an overwhelming amount of negativity in the world, but you can change that—starting with yourself.
Dr. Harville Hendrix and Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt are the creators of Safe Conversations | Relationships First™, a nonprofit that envisions a world where everyone feels safe, valued and connected.