In stressful times, we tend to fracture into warring tribes, sticking to the echo chambers that reassure us that we’re the good guys while anyone opposing us must be the baddies, who we attack so we can feel that we’re opposing evil.
But there’s no way around the fact that we’re all in this together. Even the worst among us are human beings, and if we don’t pull together in these unprecedentedly hazardous times, there’ll be hell to pay for us all.
1) Learn how to maximize empathy for those who push your buttons.
2) Rather than surrounding yourself with an insular layer of those who agree with you, cultivate relationships with those who are different. Try to experience them in their complex fullness, rather than as projection screens for your stereotypes.
3) Let the Golden Rule inform your discourse; this is the Critical Thinking tenet called Intellectual Fairness. There’s nothing wrong with suggesting that someone may be mistaken, but trying to “beat” everyone in arguments is a counterproductive ego trip.
4) Remember that any of us can be wrong about anything, and all of us are wrong about something. Commit to being correctable.
5) We cannot expect those who disagree with us to bring any more open-mindedness to the table than we do. If you’re absolutely sure you have the indisputable truth, understand that you’re modeling arrogant closed-mindedness, and you can’t complain when those you disagree with respond similarly.
6) Be suspicious of those who emphasize people’s differences, seeking to divide and conquer to further themselves. Demagogues are NOT your friends.
7) If you want the benefit of the doubt when people interpret your meanings and motivations, you must give it to others.
8) Lead with love, empathy and positive expectations, assigning blame and engaging in conflict only as absolutely necessary to deal with problems.
9) See yourself in everyone around you. This will minimize your natural tendency to behave self-centeredly in hurtful ways.
For better and worse, we’re all in the same boat. Whether we sink or swim will depend on how unified we are.