The U.S. election has unleashed a style of
aggression, anger and hatred created like no other. There have been friendships lost, families torn apart, and relationships that will take a very long time to repair. If they even can repair.
Sadly this type of situation happens all the time in the workplace. It could start from union strikes, a bully in the office, or a leader that inspires internal competition and fear.
Unfortunately when things get that bad at work, we usually decide that all the stress and frustration aren’t worth it, and we leave. Perhaps we burn the bridge with the boss, the bully, or the company; and realize that we could never go back. And we are OK with that because we made that choice.
However, in some situations, that choice isn’t an option. A union strike is an example, a divorce is an example, and a divisive election is an example.
Sometimes you can’t run away by building a wall and hiding behind it.
We need to build bridges, not walls.
The question is how do you build that bridge so that you can detach yourself from the emotions the situations causes?
Here are three things you can do to build a bridge instead of a wall:
Don’t Interrupt. When someone is saying something you don’t agree with, or making a statement that makes your skin crawl; don’t interrupt them. By interrupting, you are being the wall, refusing to hear what they have to say. Interruptions are seen as aggressive and rude. Let them finish their statement and then follow the next two steps.
Stay calm. Whatever the disagreement or difference in opinions; it is not personal. Don’t take it personally, and don’t make it personal.
Sadly the fact that many people seem to be taking the election personally is what is causing so much strife. Someone has an opinion that you don’t understand. Their point of view is different than yours. It is not your job to convince them they are wrong and don’t take it personally if they try to convince you that you are wrong.
In a perfect world, we would not launch insults or hate because someone has a different perspective. Unfortunately, it is the way it is. Be the voice of reason, stay calm, don’t take it personally and hopefully others will follow your suit.
Set Boundaries. There are some subjects that will just be off the table for discussion. I’m seeing that on social media today with the U.S. election. People are giving themselves a “free zone” where there is permission NOT to speak about anything election related. The boundary says no political comments allowed. That is a pretty safe and smart thing to do when emotions are high.
In my family there is a topic that we have all agreed will not be brought up in conversation. We realize that not everyone agrees, that no one is happy about, so we just don’t go there. Do not enter into that area of discussion.
If you have decided to build your bridge instead of a wall and the dangerous subject is brought up, it is not unreasonable to say “I am uncomfortable with this line of discussion and I’m requesting we discuss something else.” If the other person continues to have the discussion, give yourself permission to disengage and if necessary leave the room. By engaging in the discussion you are now arguing and this is not the goal. Change the subject, but don’t go there.
Building a bridge doesn’t mean we’ve repaired the divide. It means that we can move past whatever the contentious subject is and continue.
Walls create borders, sides, and promote incivility. Bridges create solutions.
Build a bridge, and get over it.
Consultant, Speaker, Trainer and Author who works with organizations to save time, money and sanity.
As appeared in the Huffington Post November 9, 2016