With the midterm elections come and gone, it has never been more evident just how divided and different we are as a country. People threatened others’ right to vote at the polls while others threw insults, lies, and smear campaigns. This political divide has turned friends into enemies and separated families during the holidays.
Where do we go from here? Is there a way to heal, or do we have to live with these warring opinions? I like to think so. In fact, I believe empathy could be the key to reconnecting with this great country again, learning to listen to each other, and finding common ground.
Start With Yourself
If you have empathy for no one else, have empathy for yourself. Understanding why you may feel upset or triggered by a specific opinion or belief is the first step you can take to have empathy for someone else. Think, “I feel like this because of that, and that’s okay. Why would someone not feel the same way?” It’s the beginning of a conversation.
Learn to Listen
One of the most vital practices we’re missing in today’s society is the practice of listening to each other. We are so consumed by our own opinions that we start only to surround ourselves with others with that same opinion. Do you know why? Because we don’t want to listen to anyone else. We don’t want to listen to the concerned mom down the street or the doctor at the hospital, so we never find common ground.
Are there certain circumstances when there will never be common ground? By listening, we can keep ourselves completely isolated from the world.
Many of our opinions come from our emotions. Step back and separate yourself from that emotion for a moment. Consider the facts surrounding a particular situation: how many people does it affect, are the sources you’re using legitimate, and what facts are the other person using? This will allow you to be more informed in your reaction and maybe see the other person’s point of view.
Meet in the Middle
It seems like such a foreign concept when we look at today’s politicians, but it IS possible to find the middle ground with people you may not agree with. All you have to do is figure out if there are things you can compromise on or minor details you can agree on. For example, maybe you both agree that something needs to change, but you have different ideas on how to change it. This can open a dialogue to help you discuss what is best for everyone.
Agree to Disagree
Sometimes, there’s nothing you can agree on with another person. Perhaps you’re too different, or your lives have made you unable to compromise. However, that doesn’t mean we need to be cruel or accusatory toward one another. By agreeing to disagree, you both decide to compromise on the simple fact that you don’t agree, and that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be a cloud hanging over your relationship. You can still have empathy for them.
Empathy isn’t forcing someone to see your point of view. It’s allowing yourself to see someone else’s perspective and being able to relate to their joys, fears, worries, and desires. Through empathy, we may be able to connect with people rather than strengthen the divide.
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