Be a Bridge Builder

This election year is filled with the strangest behavior I have ever witnessed, wouldn’t you agree?  It’s curious to me that people might actually think about voting for the person who shall not be named. But trust me, if my father were still alive he would vote by party line, hands down. That said I was in Iowa recently and found that my disgust in the current political system was a fantastic bridge builder to my father in law who, I think, views me as a two-headed monster. This, in combination with my purple hair, puts me in a league with the one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eater (sans the short shorts), and I’m okay with that ;-)

I enjoyed our conversation on politics. I’m telling you the truth! I liked it partly because it was the first time we had actually had a one-on-one conversation without anyone else around. It also forced me to think thoroughly about what I was going to say and find common ground.  Finding common ground turned out not to be as difficult as I thought.

Truth: Every day we are standing on one side of this “great divide” looking over at someone or something and thinking “What a _______.(fill in the blank} Why not challenge yourself to find ways to build a bridge between the two of you?

It’s not as hard as you think.  Here’s a few ideas for things to consider…

  1. Be Open. To really understand someone’s position, you have to withhold judgment and walk into the conversation with a truly open mind. Ask yourself: What is this person here to teach me?

  2. Ask Good Questions. Not the kind that will get you a yes or no answer, but one that seeks to understand.  “What was your first clue that you were going to grow up to be a unicorn?”

  3. Relate. Find one thing that you can relate to and note it with enthusiasm.  “I agree, that really is ______________!!!!” Finding something in common with the person and calling it out puts them more at ease and opens up a deeper dialogue.

  4. Make sure you have a chance to speak. I have been on way too many plane rides with white men (sorry about that for the rest of you, but truth telling here) who love to tell me all about themselves but never ask me a single question.  I used to just silently fume about it, but not anymore…now I say, “I know you want to hear about what I do or how I feel, right?” and before they get a chance to say no, I tell them. Simply and succinctly.  If we have differing views on something or they try to force their opinion on me, I hold up my hand in the universal stop signal and say, “Now it’s my turn.” Then I tell them my point of view.  I do this with a great deal of humor (This part’s really key!) so they don’t feel angry/embarrassed but they get the point.

  5. Find Common Ground. Find and call out the common ground between the two of you. You found it, now share it.  While the other person might not want to have any common ground, they’ll continue to think about what you said later, after you are back in your separate corners.

Bridge building. There’s an art and a science to it. It’s a great skill to hone. Get busy creativegeniusYOU you’ll have plenty of practice over the next 3 months ;-)


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