Now this is not necessarily right (see below). But I have been thinking hard about it since Brexit, not to mention Trump and much more. So here goes with some early thoughts about how it might work.
- Post truth is the new normal. It’s not just the fake news stories. There is maybe an underlying truth about post-truth which is that the world is way too complicated and contested for any set of experts to have the answers. Even those we agree with. Even on climate change. This doesn’t mean ditching rationality and science. I believe we need a better understanding of the huge usefulness of the scientific method. But also an understanding of the other forces, the politics and the psychology, which drive most of our decisions.
- We don’t have to be right. In fact, it’s not possible (see above). Maybe we can just back off a bit. Our social identity is way too bound up with being right, having an opinion, seeing through what others might be trying to put over on us… Let’s make it okay to be uncertain. Not least because if we are right, then someone else is usually wrong…
- Listen. If I don’t have to be right all the time, it releases a load of energy for understanding better those I disagree with. It’s a connected world. Let’s try and get better at actively connecting. We might find more common ground than we think. And finding any common ground, just any at all, is the starting point for finding solutions that work for more of us.
- Feel the fear. I’m often scared by those I disagree with. Even those who aren’t a physical threat seem to menace me with losing something I value. I think it’s okay to be scared. Or at least it’s better than pretending not to be since that often comes over as aggression. And it’s better than okay to be able to say clearly what it is we do value and why we want to protect it. Actually, there is often common ground on values even if there isn’t on how to act around them.
- Be kind. It’s a choice. In almost any situation. It mostly involves listening. But really listening also means, even if just for that moment, choosing to care about the other as a human. Frankly, it takes effort, especially for those of us not naturally inclined that way (guilty as charged). But the good news is that with practice, it can become a habit. And I honestly can’t remember the last time I lost out through deciding to be kind.
Would love to hear any comments. And I promise to listen!