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"We Are So Divided"

Repost from January 31, 2022


"We are so divided."


I have been paying attention to this conversation lately. I hear it with clients, on social media, in my community, and even in my own family gatherings. Maybe you have found yourself making this comment.


I have been doing a lot of listening when this topic comes up, with a goal to understand: What do people mean when they say this? Here is some of what I have learned:

  • Some people are uncomfortable with conflict.

  • Some people want things to "go back to the way they were."

  • Some people don't like how we are treating each other when we disagree.

  • Some people want others to change but don't want to self-reflect or do any change themselves.

Of course, this list isn't comprehensive. There are many different perspectives on the topic of division in our communities, organizations and relationships. Yet, it is a list of common perspectives I heard.


I ask questions for a living. So as I reflect on these perspectives, I am super curious about:

  • By avoiding conflict who is harmed? Who is unaffected? Who benefits?

  • Who was benefitting from the way things were? Who was suffering?

  • When reacting, is this person looking outward or do they spend time looking inward to examine bias and identify information gaps?

Division isn't bad or good. We are divided on all sorts of things - where to go to dinner, which parent makes the best chili (my son says Dad, my daughter says Mom), how much budget should go to product vs. operations, or whether we vote yes or no on the school district levy.


Where division becomes a problem is when we seek first to be understood rather than understand. Division becomes an issue when we fail to be inclusive and equitable about how we approach and solve the issues we are divided about.


Have you been thinking about this? What are your thoughts?


-M




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