Sometimes I feel like the Internet has failed in its great promise to create a global community. Sure, it enables us to find like-minded people but that is also where some of the problems lie. Instead of engaging in discussions to find a common ground and solutions to issues, we start to become entrenched–with the help of all of your online friends–and start believing that our way is the only right way. We lose sight of the nuances in every situation and everything becomes “black and white” and “either-or.” At its ugliest, we start demonizing those who think/believe differently than we do.
We have a tendency to romanticize mid-century America. We were the victors in a world war and were joined together to create the great post-war economic boom. But there was a lot of ugliness during that time period, also, and people were demonizing each other. It wasn’t just television that was “black and white.” We look back in horror that people would behave that way but are we really any different? Take a moment and step back to listen to some of the stuff being said on the airwaves and on the Internet. Much of what is said is designed to elicit a deep emotional response to bypass the logical and rational parts of ourselves.
We don’t want to replicate everything from that time period. One thing that we can dispose of is that whole “us versus them, either-or, black and white” kind of thinking. Solutions don’t have to be “either-or.” In fact, in my experience, it is when we try to find “win-win” solutions—what I call “with-and”—that the outcomes turn out to be so much more powerful than what I could come up with on my own.
I remember reading somewhere that Dale Carnegie, of How to Win Friends and Influence People fame, said that one the most successful ways of influencing someone is to listen to that person and figuring out a way to make that person look good in the eyes of others.
And, if all else fails, we can remember that old saying my Grandmother would repeat: God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.
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