There is no doubt that 2020 has thrown us a series of challenges that have made positive interactions difficult to come by. The COVID-19 pandemic makes it difficult to connect with friends and loved ones, and our political climate can cause conflicting opinions that create hostile conversations both online and in-person.
So, how can we come together to have civil and productive discussions? How can we initiate connections in a respectful and meaningful way?
It might seem simple, but in today’s world it has proven difficult to truly listen to what others have to say, especially when they’re saying something that goes against our own beliefs. It does not cost you anything but time to listen to someone else’s opinion, and you may even learn something. We often listen to respond, but do not listen to understand. To participate in active listening, listen attentively when someone speaks, and reflect what they have said back to them while withholding judgement. Once you’ve processed what they’ve said, then pause, contemplate, and respond. Practicing this accomplishes two things: it reaffirms that you hear them, and it engages your own brain so you can learn from what was said.
Process Out Loud
Processing our feelings alone can be stressful and cause anxiety about the world. Processing out loud with others can be extremely helpful as they can help you navigate worries, questions, and concerns. By incorporating others into our thinking, we can work through our feelings in a healthy way, and welcome alternative perspectives that may help ease anxiety and frustration. Instead of going through it alone, consider calling a friend or starting a Zoom with family to discuss things that are bothering you, you might be surprised by what they have to offer!
Know that We Can’t Change Everything
Our country’s political landscape can make it difficult to find common ground with those who don’t agree with our beliefs. This can cause serious issues with connections and friendship, which can lead to isolation, depression, and increased anxiety. The good news is that some things can be discussed that may change or influence someone else’s opinion, or even your own! But don’t enter a conversation expecting to change or shame someone’s views; enter each conversation hoping to establish mutual understanding. By understanding someone else’s reasonings, you can certainly learn and grow from the conversation, even though you don’t agree.
Always remember that there are some things that you may never agree with or understand, and even the most honest and heartfelt conversations can’t change that. If you notice emotions are taking over the conversation, take a break and revisit the topic when both parties are calm and collected. Knowing when to step away is important to preserving your mental health, and even sometimes the relationship itself.
This blog article was contributed by Jill Peisker, Nexus-Onarga Family Healing.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.