Active Listening: A Dire Need in a Polarized America

EXPERIENCE IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR, ACADEMIA AND NOT FOR PROFIT WORLD

In decades of experience with leaders in companies, universities and hospitals, nothing beats active listening for great problem-solving, consensus building and choices which deserve and get buy-in by the most people.

What is active listening? Asking questions and really listening so well that you can make the case with which you disagree as well as or better than the person believing it. It takes a lot of patience and persistence. And it takes two to tango.

POST-ELECTION AMERICA: POLARIZED

Before this election, I have never blogged about anything political – only sharing insights about leadership gleaned from decades of working intimately with leaders.

Now, whether you voted for Trump, Hillary or someone else, the election is over and civics classes teach us it is final. You may disagree with the new administration’s policies and directions, you have many avenues with which to work for what you believe (and against what you abhor). But you do not have the right to abuse people for what they believe. And you have an obligation to promote tolerance of citizens with different views regardless of skin color (including white), religion, heritage, region or any other characteristic.

STRONGLY HELD PERCEPTIONS ARE THE PROBLEM

If you get your news from a wide variety of sources, you may believe that incidents of hateful speech, hateful vandalism and hateful intimidation as well as physical attack are growing in number and perpetrated by citizens on both sides of the electorate. The new president has said into the camera: “stop it,” but once you let the dogs out, it is not easy to contain them.

If you get your news from only the most conservative sources, you may believe that the frequency of such acts is low, that they are perpetrated by paid agitators and that the offenders are “the other.” That is the view expressed to me by several Trump voters in the past two days.

If you get your news from only the most liberal sources, you may believe that the offenders are Trump supporters who feel they now have license to attack non-whites of all stripes as well as Jews. That is what several Hillary voters have expressed to me recently.

And professors tell me of a colleague who told minorities in his class that they “are not safe here anymore and should withdraw.”

MAKING AMERICA TOLERANT AGAIN

How do we have civil public discourse before the number of injuries and deaths persuades us it is an American problem? Before thousands of citizens  who contribute to our society, but are living in fear stop contributing or worse?

I am making a personal crusade to engage as many thinking people on both sides of the electorate to stand up against intolerance. It is not clear where to take these conversations or how but it is a civic obligation.

I wish I could name at least one powerful organization that promotes tolerance and open dialogue that would not be classified by one side or the other as biased. If you have suggestions, tell me. I wish I could think of a handful of famous citizens who could be missionaries for civil public discourse and tolerant and not be viewed by one side or the other as tainted. If you have suggestions, please name them.

That’s just my view. What’s yours?

 

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How Ordinary People Become
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Most leaders of American companies started out as ordinary people. What prepared them for the top job?

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