I want to thank the Calgary Chapter of CreativeMornings for giving me a platform to share ideas about what we can do as individuals to push back against polarizing views.

Below are the five key takeaways with videos and links I couldn't share during my talk. You will always be able to watch my talk online. I will update this page with a link to the talk when it is uploaded.


Values vs. Perception

When it comes to engaging in a challenging conversation, I have found that coming to the table with a clear and solid understanding of my own value and my self worth is not based on my views or perceptions of the world. 

Because here is the thing, views can be influenced. I think part of what fears us when we talk to someone with an opposing view is that they could change our minds. But the thing is, if those views actually align with your own values, then how can that be a bad thing? And when both people focus on what values matter - they are more likely to find that they share some values with each other.

Making mistakes. We all do it. But for some reason we all fear admitting when we are wrong. Probably triggers from the punishments we had as kids when we screwed up.

But the thing is, your mistakes don’t define you, they are just things that you have done. And you can always do more things even better.

I don’t know about you, but after I am honest about making a mistake, I can ‘let it go’ and take action to address ways to correct them. So when during a debate you find yourself questioning an action or view, own up to it, “I can see your point. I have never viewed it that way before. Thank You.”

When it comes to engaging in a challenging conversation, I have found that coming to the table with a clear and solid understanding of my own value and my self worth is not based on my views or perceptions of the world. 

Because here is the thing, views can be influenced. I think part of what fears us when we talk to someone with an opposing view is that they could change our minds. But the thing is, if those views actually align with your own values, then how can that be a bad thing? And when both people focus on what values matter - they are more likely to find that they share some values with each other.

Growing up is about learning who you are. And that can be scary. Eventually you realize that you can no longer pass ‘the buck’ onto your parents for raising you a certain way. We learn that we need to stand on own two feet and be accountable for our own life. It’s not anyone else’s. To be honest, no one truly cares about your life - they have their own mess to deal with.

So once you have a sense of who you are, you show up as yourself. Being seen for who you are, having an opinion, belief, perspective or even a desire to question the ‘status-quo’ is a risk. Every time you find yourself in this position, you are opening yourself up to a variety of debates.

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This quote holds really true. It is harder to have a hard conversation with those close to you. It’s easier to engage with strangers and enemies because you aren’t as invested in being as considerate for them - you don’t have to see them day in and day out.


Know your Purpose

You need to have some idea of what makes you. You.

Purpose is about being of service to somebody else. What is it about you that you bring to the table, that helps others?

How can you be of service to this person in front of you? 

To be in the presence of a person who has a strong sense of purpose and you share the same values and vision - that courage inspires others.


Listen to Understand

Step in and make the effort to listen to and learn from and push back the desire to be considered ‘right’. This requires serious listening skills. When a person senses that you are taking in what they are saying in an open way - this can help the other person to relax and be more open on their end as well.

Which leads me to this very important point. When you stop to listen for shared values, you open doors and your heart. Your opinions do not define you. One shouldn’t be afraid of having their opinions swayed and altering perception. When someone feels they are being heard, they find themselves opening their own minds and hearts as well.

This is the soft front portion of Berne’s phrase, “Soft fronts and a strong back.” You are opening the door.

I came up with this metaphor that I felt did a good job of visualizing a polarized conversation and how it keeps you from moving forward. 

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Imagine two people with opposing views in a boat and if they aren’t paddling in sync - they also don’t have the same destination in mind and and there is no way they are going to actually talk to each other! Fact is, they won’t be getting anywhere fast or at all. Especially if they keep trying to do their own thing.

Which leads me to this…

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Imagine two opposing views, right constantly going right (in circles) and left constantly going left (in circles), not unlike the ‘eddy’ in a river. You get get stuck and it’s hard to get out once you are in it. The whole idea of left versus right views. On both sides - you will find yourself if you go in circles keeping your views and conversation in only a bubble - you can’t affect change for the world around you if you do this. And here is the thing - moving forward isn’t about a straight line.

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Social movement is so like the ebb and flow of water. The flow is created from pushing forward and pulling back - continuous back and forth. I wish I could be more eloquent. But sometimes in order to connect you need to step over the line and meet the person where they are - and eventually you encourage them to do the same. And what you get in the end is moving things forward.


Emotions Matter

We are social and emotional beings. There is no conversation that isn’t accompanied by emotions. Ranging the full spectrum depending on how the engagement is going. 

I can feel either excitement or anxiety meeting someone for the first time. 

When I butt heads with my husband about some inane daily responsibility one conversation can start our with frustration and then end with relief.

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Yes, it’s society’s norm that women can show emotion and men are expected to hide theirs.

We have all grown up in this world. And we all have that voice in our head judging others. For me, I have had to stop the voice that says, “Oh that is such a guy thing to do or say.”

We need to bench our judgements, especially when they relate to such learned attitudes.

Have you heard this before?

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Or this…

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If you get a feeling you are being shut out from a person’s emotional response, either they have shut down because they just can’t handle their feelings at the time, or they are a socio path. 

If you think you are dealing with a socio path, I think this is where some internal self care comes in - know you are the normal/average person and having feelings is not a bad thing. Don’t ever let someone make you feel bad for having feelings!

Creative work is especially artistically charged. So it is so important to have some emotional intelligence to your communication repertoire. 

So cutting through what drives our emotions is the key to understanding and finding common ground. When you strip feelings from what you do, you are stripping one’s soul. We are logical creatures that are driven by our emotions.

The fact is, emotions control our actions and if we deny them, they only get stronger. We need to acknowledge and “see” others emotions and respect them. Once you do that, you open the door to trust and true communication.

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It’s important to realize that emotions are data, not directives. We may feel angry… but it isn’t the anger that lashes out, it’s a trigger for a person to take some kind of action.

So when you are in this situation it’s good to take a step back and question what it is the emotion telling you? Notice the the feeling for what is ‘is’. These are essential skills and help us to learn to be considerate of each person’s individual emotional diversity. 

When people are allowed to feel their emotional truth, engagement, creativity and innovation flourish. Diversity is not just about a person’s colour, culture or gender, but also what is also inside. So when you have your listening ears, eyes and heart on - you can be open to sensing another’s emotions in the discussion which gives you indicators of how best to respond and engage.

On the flip side, whether or not the other person addresses your reactions you need to be aware of your own visceral reactions. They are triggers and it’s up to you how to address and respond to them.


Choice

But when it all comes down to it… regardless of these tools… its ultimately a choice. 

I heard an interview with an anthropologist on a CBC radio program talking about good and evil in the world and with all the research the guy said throughout history there has been and always will be evil in the world. Whatever you ascribe that too, war, a hunger for power, and fear. But through it all you have a choice to make. Do you dig in and shoulder into the issue for what matters to you, or do you step back and be part of the problem. 

Do you choose to risk being heard and judged for your views or do you shut up and let the louder voice lead?

To me it’s this moment of choice we each have everyday which is at the essence where our courage lives.