CONNECT WITH LYNNE:

10 ways to speak to your political 'enemies'

On May 8th, 2015

The British national election is over, with a big upset of expectations and an outright win for the Conservatives. As polite British elections go, this five-week campaign was one of the most furiously fought of modern times. It often got downright ugly as politicians and laypeople from every political persuasion became starkly polarized, convinced that the other side wanted to bankrupt them, starve them, destroy the National Health System, smash up UK and then Europe, and even leave the country militarily defenseless.

The British national election is over, with a big upset of expectations and an outright win for the Conservatives. As polite British elections go, this five-week campaign was one of the most furiously fought of modern times. It often got downright ugly as politicians and laypeople from every political persuasion became starkly polarized, convinced that the other side wanted to bankrupt them, starve them, destroy the National Health System, smash up UK and then Europe, and even leave the country militarily defenseless.

So now that the public have spoken with their vote, how do all of us move from a position of extreme polarization and embrace 'the other'? How do we learn to speak to political enemies?

Whenever I think of a triumph in communication skills, I think of Orland Bishop and what would appear to be a fool’s errand. Bishop’s life work is instructing young black gang members in the art of communication, and his chosen patch to spread the word is Watts, a district in southern Los Angeles considered so devoid of the possibility of redemption, after decades of poverty and violence, that it is now chiefly known for its record of negative achievement.

In the mid-nineties, the street gangs of Watts formed the epicenter of America’s crack cocaine business. Such was the rivalry between the main gangs, the Crips and the Bloods, that the wars between them and their their offshoots claimed five times as many lives as did all the years of the troubles in Northern Ireland. T

he white establishment’s solution, the creation of the special CRASH division (the Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums) within the Los Angeles Police Department, resulted in the largest internal affairs investigation of what turned out to be the largest incidence of police misconduct in America’s history — for unprovoked shootings and beatings, framing suspects, planting evidence, and the department’s own share of drug dealing and bank robbery.

During the riots of 1965, set off by the arrest of a black youth and his family on a trumped-up drunk-driving charge, black residents burned and looted nearly 1000 mostly white-owned businesses. Some 15,000 troops of National Guardsmen and Armored Calvary — more than had ever been deployed on the nation’s own soil — were called in, ostensibly to prevent Watts from burning itself to the ground.

“Monkeys in a zoo,” is how the LAPD’s police chief William Parker publicly summed up the situation, sparking off another round of looting and arson only contained when Guardsmen cordoned off all of Watts from the rest of Los Angeles like an epidemic requiring quarantine.

Thirty years later, Watts rose again as the symbol of the uneven hand of American justice after a tourist’s video captured policemen brutally beating black motorist Rodney King, and the officers involved were acquitted of all charges.

This latest incident set off a six-day riot of arson, assault and murder, leaving fifty-three dead, thousands injured, and more than one billion dollars in damages.

In the ongoing dialogue between the races in America, Watts is the place where no one is doing much listening.

Nevertheless, here, in this No Man’s Land, Orland Bishop’s work teaches rival black gang members how to relate to each other. And he’s succeeding because of one simple principle – changing the currency of the relationship.

Currently most relationships are forged from the erroneous idea that we have to be the same to get along and that differences between us are to be avoided at all costs.

In fact, conflict is considered so antithetical to the human experience that when others disagree with us, we conclude that they must be stupid or ill-informed. To justify this position, we find it necessary to debate them, demonize them, and announce their ignorance to the world. In our minds, conflict can be resolved only with I win, you lose.

Bishop believes that a gang, like a political party, is simply a manifestation of the thwarted human need to belong. “They have an instinct toward oneness, which is why they form gangs,” says Nelsa Libertad Curbelo Cora, a peace worker with young gang members in Guayaguil, Ecuador’s version of Watts.

Bishop’s work is all about teaching his young gang members to move beyond “I” and “you” – or, more commonly, “us” and “them.”

Once we view ourselves as a part of a bigger whole, we begin to act differently toward each other. By making this one simple change of perspective and offering yourself as a vehicle of service to the connection, you will easily find the Bond that is always present and embrace difference within that larger experience of connection.

In Bishop’s workshops, the focus shifts from a search for sameness, to a sharing of the deepest aspects of each other, moving past superficiality to the deepest truth of who you are and what you dream for.

“When you share this deeply, as he suggests, you surrender to your natural impulse to merge together and you find the common ground of the space between you – the place of your common humanity. “Shared meaning,” says Bishop, “allows for different perceptions – or realities – to exist together.”

Bishop coaches the young men in the art of speaking and listening deeply and from the heart — without being critical or judgmental. During this type of deep sharing, the pull of wholeness builds trust and loosens their attachments to entrenched positions. The very intensity of the experience lends itself to the establishment of new alliances and a larger vision for the future.

So here are my 10 steps to overcoming deep conversational divides when you meet people of a different political persuasion.

1. Invite cooperation from the beginning when raising an issue.

2. Listen to the other with a view to understanding, not agreement or disagreement. Don’t try to win the debate, convince others of your “rightness,” or convert them to another point of view

3. Stay absolutely present. Don’t let your mind wander or begin formulating your response when the other person is speaking.

4. Identify and explore the other person’s core values and interests: underlying hopes, needs, values, concerns, motivations, fears, and ideals. . Both Conservatives and Labour supporters have many identical interests: a love of family, God, children, home, and country. All of us want to fix the economy, the roads, the government, the high price of petrol, our educational system. Working out how to do so together affords us an opportunity to come together for a larger goal, at which point superficial differences diminish in importance.

5. Separate the other person’s suggested solutions for satisfying the core interests from the interests themselves. They are not the same.

6. Reveal the back story of why you believe what you believe. Sharing deeply invites deep understanding and connection.

7. Slow down before responding.

8. When disagreements occur, listen harder. You’ll often find that the problem is a gap in your knowledge of the events in the person’s life that have led him to that position.

9. During differences, seek to change the space between you. Change the energy that flows between you by changing your tempo, your attitude, your facial expressions. Make your body language and unspoken communication transmit your desire to connect.< /p>

10. Brainstorm creatively together all possible ways to solve a given problem. Imagine a positive outcome.

When generosity and wholeness are the currency, the game starts changing.

Comments

comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

BUY NOW AT AMAZON!
  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Unit 9, Woodman Works, 204 Durnsford Rd
    London SW19 8DR.

    You can connect with Lynne via Laura Ortiz: laura@wddty.co.uk

    You can speak to Customer Services at:
    +44 (0)208 944 9555

    Privacy Policy
    shopping-carttwitter-squarefacebook-squareinstagram

    Lynne McTaggart