One of the things that has me riled up these days is the extreme polarisation that is going on – in the world and especially on the internet. Covid-19 has many people on edge and conspiracy theories are growing bigger by the day. The mayor of Amsterdam made a judgement call about a protest this week and people are literally saying that she should be hanged. Hanged? What the fuck?
I find this disconcerting, and while I am not saying I am not biased (by nature every human being is), I found myself compelled to write a short piece on how to navigate this polarisation and offer you some tools to hopefully get out of that binary mode and more into conversation.
1. Calm your nervous system down
If everything seems black and white; you are triggered. If you feel people ‘are against you’, ‘do not get it’, ‘are attacking you’ and you experience tunnel vision, you are triggered. The same goes for you seeing other people saying or doing the same thing; they are triggered. Fight, flight & freeze responses are all signs of an activated nervous system.
There is nothing wrong with being triggered. We all get triggered. Where you have choice is to start learning about your trigger signs, pause, take a breath and disengage.
Take a moment, take a walk, talk it out with a friend, whatever works for you. I can guarantee engaging from a triggered space will only get your further into a shit storm. You can build your leadership here, self parent that tender part that got activated and build compassion for yourself and others. And once you have calmed down, you can choose to re-engage. From an adult perspective, not from an activated child place.
Many people are triggered right now. I have never seen so many strong opinions floating around. So take that in. Many people, also in your circle, are in trigger responses. You can choose to not engage, or disengage, and not perpetuate the intensity. That does not mean discontinuing the conversation long term necessarily, but if one or both of you are triggered, you are not listening, just shouting at each other.
2. Practise coming from a place of not-knowing
We all seem to know ‘the truth’, more and more these days. Yet, as soon as you believe you know the truth, you are in polarity and out of real conversation. In myself, when I am rigidly attached to an opinion, there is often fear involved. Maybe there is a belief or a personality trait that when let go of, would ‘threaten’ a part of how I construct my worldview. That is scary. So I cling on even more; because the certainty of ‘knowing the thruth’ is more comfortable than not knowing, being confused, being scared. Well, these are scary, confusing and uncertain times. There is not a lot to hold on to. By default that is uncomfortable.
I advocate that there might be more to learn allowing ourselves to not know. To be uncomfortable. To get worked by these unprecedented times. And to hold back when we think we know. I don’t know the full picture about Corona, and what we / I / the government(s) should do / have done. I think nobody has the full picture. So how about not acting like we do? I am practising this right now (I am human, so definitely not always to full success), want to practise with me?
3. Acknowledge we are all humans and make mistakes
That means everybody. Including you, your loved ones, people in government, people in other influential places. If you expect people to be perfect, you will be very disappointed along the way (believe me I tried). So relate to them as humans, not as perfect abstract principles. When I read this Steve Jobbs quote, it flipped my life upside down:
“Life can be so much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call ‘life’ was made up by people who were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
That means you are an integral part of this thing called ‘life’. And you will fuck up, and others too. Have some compassion. See it as learning, not as a ‘one strike you’re out’ kinda thing (again, if you are feeling that, you are probably triggered).
This does not mean not holding people accountable. That is essential, and gets more essential, the higher up in leadership you get. Celebrate the people that accept accountability and the consequences, call the people out that do not. But also listen, and acknowledge our shared humanity.
4. Be open to different perspectives, ánd practise discernment
With being human comes being unique. The lenses we see the world through are unique. Everybody is shaped by genes, upbringing, early childhood & generational trauma, biases, and a life filled with unique experiences. You are too. And the best thing we can do – in my humble opinion – is to accept that fact, really let it sink in, and practise connecting anyway.
Learn to listen well (to your internal world and to others) and see if you can cultivate understanding by being open to different perspectives. Accept that nobody will see the world exactly as you do, but strive to explore those places of shared reality.
And with being open to different perspectives (even in yourself!), cultivate discernment. Some perspectives might be more valid than others, to you. Listen to what sombody has to say, and choose to go deeper. Or listen, and choose to disengage. People will all have different perspectives, but that does not mean you have to rank them equally. But do it from a place of discernment and exploration, not from a place of shutting people down to begin with.
PS: my Circling leadership intensive Find Your Flavour – Circling Leadership Training starts in 3 months. This is the ultimate place to deeply explore your inner world and those of others. In service of cultivating deep personal leadership, learning to be with polarity and finding the ground in you to show up from presence, compassion and inclusivity. Interested? I am enrolling people now – find out more here and reach out here if you want to set up a conversation.