So follow me here.
I witnessed the most wonderful thing.
This past week I saw a social media discussion (if such actually qualifies as discussion) play out something like this:
Person #1 shared a sincere concern. His words were non-inflammatory, affirming of the audience, but expressive of a strong opinion. He was neither vain nor vulgar in his expression, but make no mistake: his opinion was strong. At the end of his comment, he apologized for his “rant,” adding that the motive for his sharing was due to how much he and his wife were sincerely bothered.
Almost immediately, Person #2 chimes in, solely sharing, “Yeah, completely disagree.”
Person #1 asks #2 to clarify. When #2 clarifies, he simply says to #1 that “you’re judging” other people.
(Meanwhile all sorts of silent social media participants are inconspicuously hitting the “like” button for one or the other above. Not sure that’s helping.)
People chime in, adding all sorts of info and perspective that were not shared in the initial comments by #1 and #2. (Of course, all info and perspective were not shared; this is social media, a limited, non-comprehensive form of communication.)
Then come a few insults — pretty minor, but insults, nonetheless. Something about somebody’s grammar.
Then comes a little defensiveness. Makes sense; insults and sarcasm typically don’t go over very well in the middle of conflict, regardless of intensity.
#1 and #2 keep talking, with others feeling a need to chime in, supporting but also sometimes egging on the opinion with which they most concur.
But then comes the something wonderful…
#1 and #2 stay engaged. Each resists the temptation to allow their defensiveness or passion to alter their communication style. You then saw phrases such as “that’s true,” “I understand,” and “I see your point”… but the key was that there was an allowance for varied opinion without disrespect. What then happened was a recalibration of the opinion by Person #1, who said some 49 comments later, “You are right. My assessment of the situation is way off base.” He then added that we each are entitled to how best we see to handle this incident; there was not one right way. He sincerely and humbly acknowledged the conversation’s participants.
The conversation continued for a while, with late-comers making their points known, but at this point, all intensity was seemingly diffused. Varied opinion and further perspective was offered with full respect of all in the audience.
That then proceeded to this wise comment from a chimer-in-er: “This is the healthiest debate I’ve ever seen; hats off to both of you.”
And from another, this: “Seeking to understand — and not just to respond — is key to having a meaningful, civil, discussion on most any topic. Kudos!”
You know what made this work?
This group of people were all part of our wonderful, thriving neighborhood. We are a diverse group… multi-generational, multi-cultural, multi-everything. We are a community.
Recognizing community is key. A community recognizes what they have in common. They focus more on what they have in common than on what they don’t — and they never let something smaller become more magnified. Magnification results in division.
The reason the above conversation worked with onlookers applauding them both was because the conversation happened within the context of community.
If we would each recognize community, how would we individually change? How would it change how we expressed ourselves and the actual conversations that ensued?
The reality is we have more in common than what we don’t, friends.