A few months before the election, a male coworker told me he wanted to talk with me about my views on politics and asked if I could meet him in his office. I was like, “Sure…?” To be honest, as I walked into his office, I felt like I might have just entered into a lion’s den without knowing if it had a lion waiting to devour me.
He said, “I want to understand why you feel the way you do about politics and why I think you may be voting the way you are.” I could have said, “Well, it’s kinda none of your business” but instead, I shared with him about my own life experiences (some amazing and some traumatic) that shaped my personal views and concerns regarding politics. He shared his concerns as well.
Our views were pretty much opposite with the candidates, and he said a lot to me. However, do you know what wasn’t said?
- He didn’t refer to me as a political label.
- He didn’t tell me I am un-American because my views differed from him.
- He didn’t question my faith or call me out for “not being a real Christian”.
- He didn’t tell me that my opinion or concerns were invalid.
- He didn’t make me feel unwelcome or not worthy of having a voice.
- He didn’t call me “lazy”, “looking for a handout”, etc…
- He didn’t disrespect me in any way, and I didn’t disrespect him.
As our conversation ended, he thanked me for having this discussion. We knew we hadn’t convinced each other of voting in a different manner, but we also knew that the point of our conversation was not to do this. We both walked away with a deeper level of understanding about each other’s political and social concerns.
I have thought about this conversation often in the past month or so, but most recently, this week after seeing all of the discourse via social media regarding the election. My coworker and I still get along (SHOCKING!). We still have mutual respect for each other (NO WAY!), and we actually work quite well together (SHUT THE FRONT DOOR).
If there is anything that we can learn from this crazy election cycle, subsequent new President, and social media nonsense, it is this:
We have a LOT of talking to do, and not just via comments on Facebook or other social media outlets. I mean real conversations where we seek to understand and not just to respond. We carry far too many misperceptions about each other. We won’t understand the why’s of what makes a person feel strongly about a particular subject unless we’ve actually engaged him or her in conversation about it. We need to remember that we all carry life experiences that shape the decisions we make.
We are Americans. Let’s not allow the very freedom of democracy to split us apart.
We are better than that.