**This is a storyline edit and repost of a past blog. I was looking for the words to help others connect with their community, have compassion, and heal from old wounds. My connection post from August of 2019 danced through my head, and felt more relevant than when it was first posted. I ask you to read this version with an open heart and mind. Learn. Think. How do you speak/ write/ make comments to others? Are “those people” doing something? Heck, I have even used that term lately.
I’ve found myself talking about all of “those people” who are judging other people. Who aren’t seeing the big picture. Who are creating division and separation. It was a good moment to check myself and my own ego. That’s a broad-based statement and judgement there, Dawn. Not only are we all doing the best we can, but our brains are wired from birth and from upbringing to find solutions to a problem in a pattern. You are doing what you can with the knowledge, beliefs, and brain you have. So is everyone else. No matter what “side” they seem to be on.
Ego and Fear
My book, The Touch Crisis, is now a bestseller. Perhaps my mind is accurate in telling me it’s not going to help enough.
Firstly, how on earth am I supposed to help us connect with each other when we cannot even use civil tones with each other on social media? Secondly, how can we use intentionally loving or compassionate physical contact to connect when we cannot even use compassionate verbal tones? Thirdly, how can we touch each other with kindness when we are triggered by the idea that someone–that stranger over there– may or may not have a mask on at the moment?
I have been observing people become angrier with each other. We are acting less patient, less kind, less considerate. Perhaps as a culture we are expressing more belligerence and more defensiveness because we tie ourselves to “a side.”
Maybe touch will help? My internal dialogue spins. When did each of us stop thinking critically? When did the slippery slope of identifying with an idea shift to our ego and our tie to our own identity? How has each of us lost touch with how our actions and words impact others–no matter what the others’ beliefs are? How has the way I define myself changed?
People cheat, people lie, people do bad things—not liberals, not conservatives, not pro-Trump, not BLM, not whites, not gays, not the immigrants, not the millennials, not the elderly. There are hate groups, of course, but individuals make these choices, the same way my individual friends make the choice to use tones of hatred. Individual People also make mistakes. Many are traumatized–even if they aren’t aware of it yet because they are in survival mode. “Those people” who are judging others for their actions or inactions are part of the problem. How do I become part of the solution? How can I even stop using the insidious yet seemingly-harmless term “those people?”
My goal of helping others connect seeming suddenly hopeless, I stepped away from my computer and wandered aimlessly around my house. Instead of the peace of the Norwegian countryside, I was confronted with rain and the piles of detritus left on the curbside by the college-student turnover in my neighborhood. I thought of my friend who made the comment, “Suddenly I’m associating the American flag on vehicles with the concept of racism, and I don’t want to feel that way. In fact, I know it isn’t that way.”
Our shadow side has emerged. On one hand it’s great, because to heal anything we must face the hard truth of what lies in the dark. Of what has been hidden. Of what needs to be healed and confronted and understood. But one cannot fight shadow with anger, with cruelty, with judgement, and with denial. My mind drifted again to an exercise at my Blandin Community Leadership training. If only people understood how much our beliefs are actually part of our brain function.
Blandin Leadership Training
“I am going to put you into groups based upon your Meyers Briggs results and have each group figure a way to solve this problem.” One of the program directors stood in the middle of the U-shaped table formation near the front of the room and watched us expectantly.
I was one of fifty rural community leaders. We were a variety of ages, backgrounds, gender, and race. Our similarity was our passion and our desire to change our community for the better, and each of us had been chosen– after a lengthy application process– to be trained and resourced to build and sustain a healthy community. We were learning not only about ourselves, but where individual and organizational blind spots may be, how we interact with others, how to see problems from a higher perspective, how to build positive social structures, and how to resolve conflict. Quite an undertaking for a five-day retreat.
This should be interesting, I thought, as the director divided us into three groups. The last few exercises taught us all a lot about individual roles and reactions, but this is the first big group problem-solving exercise. I smiled as everyone stood up and a cheerful buzz filled the room, as people grabbed their materials and re-organized themselves.
“Here’s the situation,” she interrupted the chatter as people organized into smaller circles. “You are on the board of directors of a nonprofit organization. Your bookkeeper, a volunteer who has been loyal, accurate, and timely for 15 years, suddenly starts making mistakes in the financials. The mistakes seem to be growing slowly, and one day it is brought to your attention that someone smelled alcohol on her breath while she was at the office. What do you do?”
She stepped back and smiled knowingly. “Does anyone need me to read that again?”
Huh, not quite as challenging as I anticipated, I thought as I turned back to my group with a thoughtful look on my face, I already know what my plan of action would be.
“Well, of course we need to have a conversation with her,” one member piped up right away. “We don’t know what’s going on or if it’s true she really had been drinking.”
“She is a volunteer,” another person chimed in. “But we do have a duty to our organization, especially when it comes to finances.”
“Yes, we definitely cannot sacrifice our organization if she isn’t able to continue here duties well, but if she needs a bit of time away from the job to deal with a personal issue, we could find another person to help temporarily,” the next comment came.
Yep, this is easy, I sat up straighter and looked around the rest of the conference room to see how the other two groups seemed to be getting on. Looks like there’s a lot of agreement in the other two groups as well, I noted, people are smiling and nodding and seem enthusiastic with their hand gestures—-at least the extroverts.
I giggled to myself. Blandin had broken our 16 types down into sub-types, giving us further insight to each category, and I could see those dynamics playing out in the room. Our group is much smaller than each of the other two, I noted. We only have about ten, and the other two are around twenty people each. That must make it a bit more difficult to come to a resolution.
“You have three minutes left. Please pick someone from your group to present your decision to the group,” the director interrupted loudly over the animated chatter.
We hastily picked our leader, had her verbally recap our final decision to us quickly, and turned towards the front of the room, waiting.
“Group one, please present your results.”
A prominent businesswoman stood up and projected the decision easily and clearly over the group. “As the board of directors, we have no choice but to terminate her volunteer position immediately and find a replacement. We cannot tolerate any financial impropriety in the organization, as it could cause a negative impact on our nonprofit status, our revenue, and the community trust in our organization.”
Wow, that is super harsh, I thought, stunned. No communication? No making sure that there wasn’t some other error in the system or an update that wasn’t her fault that was creating the errors? Wow. So much for years of loyalty. I know how much time that stuff can take.
“Group three, go ahead,” the leader interrupted my thoughts as I shook my head and turned my body the other direction to hear the verdict from the other side of me.
“Well,” the executive director of a nonprofit stood and faced the group. “She has had 15 years of loyal service. We thought it was in our best interest to sit down and have a conversation with her, offer her help, see if the matter was one in which she wanted to leave the position temporarily or permanently. We will give her support in finding help with her drinking if that is necessary, and do what we can to get her back on track. She is a volunteer after all, and we don’t need to jump to harsh conclusions or actions until we understand the totality of the problem.” She sat back down.
Huh, that doesn’t seem to protect the organization fast, and is completely opposite of the first group’s answer.
“Group 2?” The leader prompted.
Our spokeswoman, who worked for a large corporation, stood up and announced our decision, an exact blend of the other two. Starting with compassion and curiosity, and if the issue wasn’t fixed, to take strong disciplinary action.
Our brain wiring determines how we make these kinds of decisions. Holy crap. And my group’s brain wiring has a blend of both sides, which is why we are smaller and have a blend of both answers.
The understanding hit me as ways to increase communication and synergy to pull two conflicting sides together became clear.
Nature and nurture both influence how we see and interact with the world as individuals. The fear, drama, and propaganda in our culture now shapes the tone and grace–or lack thereof–in which individuals choose to share their opinions.
My mom told me that if I can’t say anything nice—-don’t say anything at all. I don’t believe that is true. Communication is necessary for a vibrant community. We need to be able to disagree, to have respectful conflict, to speak our minds, to share what is disturbing us, and why. However, it can be done in a curious, educational, and amicable way. Are there people spouting melodrama and hatred out there? Of course. Does that mean you need to match their tone? Absolutely not.
If something someone says triggers you and makes you extremely angry, is there a way you can pause, take a breath, and reply in a manner or tone that conveys your disagreement in a way that opens communication? What kind of attitude and tone would open you to listening to an opposing point of view? Try using that.
That’s my challenge for you this week. Whether it’s a disagreement with your child, your coworker, your friend, or on social media, take a breath. Realize that everyone has a right to their own opinion, no matter what information or lack thereof informs it. You may not be able to change someone’s mind, but you won’t for sure if you attack them. Ignore those who haven’t learned these lessons yet, except to prompt them to please use a different tone.
Does that seem too challenging? Perhaps it’s time to learn Emotional Freedom Techniques (a.ka. EFT or tapping.) It’s a powerful way to release the visceral emotional reaction to stressful situations. Check this link for class details. If you would prefer to talk about it individually, schedule a free session here.
With love and hope,