Six Ways to Get Along with People Who seem Totally Wrong
because they are friends, family members, co-workers or neighbors,
or because you're Christian and think Jesus requires it.
"You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
-- Matthew 5: 43-44
six practical steps to take
1. Hang out with them even if you don't like them all that much, try sharing food and music.
2. Focus on shared identities and experiences: shared suffering, shared joy, shared problems.
3. Walk in their shoes, imagine the world from their point of view, listen to their stories.
4. Focus on their individual identities, not their group affiliations.
5. Practice moral reframing: make your arguments in terms that will make sense to them.
6. Cultivate mindfulness.
see below for a little more detail and links to the research behind the six ways
The Reality of a Divided America
excerpted from from the Greater Good Magazine: Science-Based Insights for a Meaningful Life
Political scientists are finding that more and more people are either all-liberal or all-conservative in their political positions—and so are the politicians they elect, as reflected in their votes in Congress.
There are many studies showing that more Americans are using their political party affiliation as a source of meaning and social identity, with these identities linked to how we play, what we buy, which movies we like, and even our sense of right and wrong.
Around 60 percent of Americans who strongly affiliate with one political party now want their child to marry within the party; in 1958, by contrast, 72 percent of respondents told pollsters the party of their child’s spouse did not matter.
While actual political violence is rare in the United States, a shockingly high percentage of Americans take pleasure in the thought of their political opponents being harmed.
Practicing Hospitality in Open and Relational Theology
In the Abrahamic wisdom traditions, the welcoming of guests is called the practice of hospitality. Open and relational (process) theologians suggest that the very Soul of the universe -- God -- practices hospitality. One such theologian, Thomas Oord, suggests that this practice is essential to God's own nature, which means that God cannot "not" practice hospitality. Because God is unlimited love, it is in God's very nature to welcome guests. Perhaps so, but what we also know is that, for us humans, this practice can be very difficult when it comes to strangers and 'enemies.'
"We are practicing hospitality when we welcome guests — including strangers and enemies — into our lives with graciousness. An open house reveals certain things about us: we are well-disposed toward others, we focus on the positive, and we believe the universe is basically a friendly place. Sometimes hospitality requires that we cross boundaries and dismantle some of the barriers erected in our society to keep "the other" out. Sometimes it means entertaining ideas that might be alien to us. To be hospitable, you need to accept pluralism as a natural condition in the world. Celebrate the diversity of the Creation. One particularly valuable spin-off of hospitality is inter-religious dialogue. Spirit speaks in many languages, and this spiritual practice helps us receive these multiple messages." (Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice)
"Despite some of our deeply rooted tendencies to divide ourselves into groups, humans also have the propensity to broaden and cross their group boundaries. Recent history has borne this out: Despite the extreme sectarian conflicts of the 20th century, by many measures the world today is more peaceful and tolerant than it has ever been before, thanks largely to bridge-building activism across the planet. Here are some ways research has shown us we can build bridges across our differences.
Intergroup contact. Research suggests that fostering contact between members of different groups is one of the best ways to bridge divides—but only under the right conditions. In one of the most comprehensive analyses of intergroup contact, researchers looked at 515 studies and found that more contact could reduce prejudice between groups divided along dimensions like race, sexual orientation, disability, and mental illness. However, for these efforts to succeed, certain important conditions needed to be in place, including that the groups needed to share common goals and their contact needed to have the approval of relevant authority figures.
Focus on our shared identities. Another way for us to bridge differences is by focusing on the higher-level identities we share with others that transcend the more specific group identities that tend to sow division. For instance, a 2005 studyfound that participants—all soccer fans—were less likely to help an injured jogger if that jogger was wearing a jersey of a rival soccer team. However, in a subsequent experiment, the participants were reminded of their larger, more general identity as soccer fans; after that, they were more likely to help an injured fan of a rival team than they were to help someone who wasn’t wearing a soccer jersey at all.
Walk in the shoes of our opponents. In a pair of studies looking at race-based conflict, researchers paired Mexican immigrants with white Americans and paired Israelis with Palestinians—all of whom were asked to share their perspectives on the difficulties of life in their society, and to take the perspective of the person on the other side. For both pairings, this dialogue improved participants’ attitudes toward the other group, boosting empathy and warm feelings.
Importantly, some evidence suggests that during interactions between members of groups that have been at odds with one another, the group with more social power is likely to experience greater improvements in their attitudes toward the other group when they take the other person’s perspective, whereas members of the group with less social power are likely to experience greater improvements in their attitudes toward the other group when they give their perspective.
Focus on others’ individual characteristics, not their group identity. Research has found that when people see someone from another group, their brains and bodies can respond as if they’re confronting a physical threat. However, when they’re encouraged to see those other people as individuals with their own unique tastes and preferences—for instance, by imagining the person’s favorite vegetable—their brains no longer jump into threat detection mode.
Practice “moral reframing.” If you’re trying to appeal to people on the other end of the political spectrum, think about the values that resonate with them—then present your argument in terms of how it supports those values, not in terms of your own values.
There are organizations around the country that are trying to facilitate positive intergroup contact, such as Living Room Conversations and People’s Supper. There are also organizations, like Junior State of America, that are training students to bridge differences. The policy-focused organization Convergence is bringing political opponents together under controlled conditions, helping them to become competent communicators across partisan lines. This work isn’t just about bringing people together. It’s also trying to build the skills we need to bridge our differences and work toward common goals."