What Does it Take To Meet in the Middle?
Over the years, I've spent a lot of time helping people meet in the middle and find understanding and connection when they are in conflict or disagreement. These days, with Covid, Climate Change, Social Media, and political polarization, it seems it's getting more and more difficult to meet in the middle. Nonetheless, I've recently had enriching experiences in which someone with views very different than mine was willing to engage in a respectful discussion. In both cases, we didn't come to an agreement on the issue we were exploring, but we did have meaningful dialogues in which we each heard, considered, and even investigated each other's views.
From my successful and unsuccessful experiences of finding a middle ground I've put together a list of ingredients that I have found very helpful when attempting to meet someone in the middle of opposing views.
Empathy: a sincere effort to understand another's feelings and needs, even if you don't agree with their views and beliefs.
Self-regulation: tools and resources for working through your upset thoughts and emotions - it's very difficult to communicate respectfully and have empathy for someone when you're upset (frustrated, angry, hurt, enraged, despairing, etc).
Openness: the willingness to sincerely consider and investigate opinions, information, and perspectives that are different than yours, even if you are certain they are not accurate.
A Willingness to Question Your Assumptions and Beliefs: This one can be quite challenging as our assumptions and beliefs can be tied to our identity, security, and belonging.
Dialoguing in Person or by Phone: Social media does not lend itself to connecting across differences. We often communicate and behave more respectfully when we can see the impact of our expression on another and pick up all of the non-verbal communication. It's not impossible to find a middle ground on social media, but I feel much more confident about getting there face to face.
A Willingness to Look Deep Inside:
How did your parents deal with conflict?
Do you have unresolved pain or trauma that is influencing your response to conflict?
What is your relationship to authority - do you automatically rebel against it or submit to it and not question it, or do you engage with it respectfully?
Are you projecting? - conflict is fertile ground for the Shadow.
Your Intention: is it more important to you to be right or to connect?