Today five more states are voting in primaries. This has been one of the most contentious primary seasons I can remember. Even more, at this point in my life, I have friends from around the world representing all points in the political spectrum, people I care deeply about and disagree strongly with.
I refuse to believe I must “unfriend” or even simply avoid the people I care about who don’t hold the same views as I do. Indeed, sometimes those people live under my roof – there is no escape!
Here are three steps that help me live in harmony even if I can’t live in agreement.
Step 1: Observe Carefully
The foundation of living peacefully with others is awareness of differences between ourselves and others, not just who we assume they are and where we believe they are coming from. How many times have you stated an opinion, assuming you were with like-minded friends, only to find you’d offended someone? Even people we have known for years grow and change and are not the same people they were five or ten years ago.
In order to grow in awareness, you much be observant – watch and listen for what their values, goals, and motivations are. Once you have determined this, apply John Maxwell’s 101% principle – find the 1% you agree on and give it 100%!
Step 2: Listen Attentively
In order to truly connect with someone, you have to understand their perspective, and the only way to do that is to listen “connectively” – listen to understand instead of to defend or respond.
This is, of course, easier said than done, but with practice you can develop the habit of truly hearing a person out. It really does make listening a bit easier when you’re not constantly thinking about a witty repartee.
Step 3: Speak Wisely
The final step is when words finally come out of your own mouth. To connect with someone, you must “speak their language” – start with what is important to them before you can explain what is important to you.
For example, if you want to talk to a Trump supporter, you can’t start with the plight of the underprivileged. You have to start with addressing the issues of government regulation and immigration reform before you can come around to what is important to you.
Likewise, if you are talking to a Sanders supporter, you can’t start with the challenges facing entrepreneurs. You have to start with addressing economic inequality and lack of opportunity facing the lower and middle classes before you can talk about other issues.
No matter who wins the primaries today or who ultimately receives the party nominations this year, there will be people who are upset and who disagree with you and others. In Colossians, Paul said, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” One translations says “gracious and attractive.” In the end, how we speak impacts our relationships, which are intended to last much longer than an election season. Speak wisely and avoid election season fallout!