May 6, 2010

Finding the Middle Ground, SB1070

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few weeks, or out of the country, or lying senseless in a coma, by now you know about AZ SB1070, known as the Arizona Immigration Bill. It has caused quite a response, not just in the state but throughout the world. Anger from both sides seems to be the prevailing attitude, though some friends of mine have found ways to express their thoughts about it in creative and funny ways.

Last week, when I made a fairly benign comment about the bill to someone who didn't share the same view, he shouted his disagreement at me - complete with insults about my intelligence and education. It is the style of communication controversial  talk radio hosts love because it makes them feel smart. Insulting people of differing opinions is great for creating the type of polarization that wins elections but it is not a good basis for a thoughtful or productive conversation that might lead to greater understanding between people who really want a solution.

Don't get me wrong. Those of you who know me know I LOVE a good debate. I love to be challenged mentally, to find a way to make my point in the most convincing way possible. But, even in the midst of a heated debate, I firmly believe in showing respect and compassion to the person I'm debating and toward those people whose future we're discussing. Cheap insults and polarizing political diatribes don't win many converts to a new opinion.

How different our conversation could have been had my friend and I begun with respect and a willingness to find our common ground before highlighting our differences? We might have each learned that the other was more right that we knew.

Steven Covey emphasizes a concept in his business courses which seems very appropriate to this and so many other political situations...

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

I'm going to take it as my mantra in the coming days.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about this! Have you had any arguments about this one?

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