There’s Not a Soul Out There That Thinks Exactly Like You
How to Connect with ALL Kinds of People and Have both Awesome and Awkward Conversations
So, I ran into a situation on one of the Facebook groups I'm a member of: and a particular topic got the group pretty overheated. It left all kinds of women saying they were going to quit the group - because there was no civil discourse. People were throwing up their proverbial hands in frustration and people were saying some things that you probably would only say – with the anonymity of the Internet.
I wasn't actually a part of the discussion - but I did get caught up reading people's angry posts over what had transpired in the previous days. The one question I did respond to though was the one around - how do we begin to have conversations with people who we don't agree with? It's a great question! And I think it has a lot of us rather stymied because we may not want to instigate a negative response. I know I don’t want a fight - but I AM interested in the conversation.
I think social media is a brilliant platform. It is exposing us to people from all around the world. People who - we would have never had in our daily life. But with that - you have the potential for volatility – especially when social media is set up to create silos of beliefs. It can make for a very uncomfortable and toxic space.
I'm sure it's no surprise to any of you that all the social media platforms are designed - to keep feeding you - information that it already knows you will agree with. So, if your political views lean left of centre - all of your feeds are going to agree with that particular philosophy. If you're right of centre it will do the same thing.
If you're into candles or witchcraft or how to decorate Christmas cakes you're going to get those feeds - and if you click on every conspiracy theory - I'm sure you can guess what you get. But when you get yourself into a public forum it can be a free for all.
So, you've been lulled into this false sense of security that says everyone agrees with you so you must be right – or at least - in the majority – and biggest always means right – right? Goodness – I hope I don’t have to tell you I’m joking with that last line. The assumption that the majority is always right - has gotten us into some awful scenarios – through our short and violent history.
Often – when people wake up to the fact that not everyone believes what they believe the first reaction may be “I cannot believe that there are such idiots out there believing something completely different than me”. Oh, our ego’s usually have a titch of arrogance – don’t they?
Now you might be way gentler in your use of words or thoughts - but it's really easy to get riled up when you don't have a context - for where that other person’s opinions and ideas are coming from.
The good thing to remember here is - that they don't have a context for you, either.
So, your comments are just as infuriating to them as theirs are to you.
Now do you remember that story I told you of how I had learned some bias from my father about Ford cars (podcast #5). I wasn't instructed to believe negative things about them from my father - not in a literal sense of him sitting me down and verbally letting me know what his opinion was - but I picked up his opinion, nonetheless.
So originally, I did that with political parties. I heard his opinion constantly about whatever party happened to be in place. If it was his party - of course most everything that came out in the papers he agreed with. If an opposing party was in power tho’ - then everything they did was pretty useless.
I could feel he thought the opposing party always had a very negative agenda, and his party always had a very positive agenda.
Now he wasn't really into sports, but he instilled in us that the hockey team from our city was the one to cheer for. It's like the idea that if you don't cheer for your own cities team - you're somehow disloyal. You're not a good citizen.
Now say something negative about our country compared to another country – oh, you'd get an earful. Now, I love my country - but I've never lived - in another country. I have nothing to compare it to. Oh, I've done a fair bit of traveling - but that's a very lopsided view of what a country is like.
So, this whole idea that what WE value and what WE believe is somehow superior - simply because it's what we value and believe is rather preposterous don't you think?
Let me dig in here a little bit. You already know that all of the information you have in your subconscious mind, unless you've done the work of waking up and evaluating your unconscious beliefs and behaviors, is still how you're walking the world – you’re acting as if as if - everything that you believe and think is capital T - TRUE.
And that can be said - for everyone you're having a conversation with - whether it's face to face, over the phone or online.
If everyone on the other side of the table - is as sure of what they value and believe - as you are of what - you value and believe, how do you have a constructive conversation, where you're actually able to – learn something from each other?
This is a question that has worked for me - and maybe it'll work for you. Let’s say someone says something that I initially judge as ludicrous. Now we all judge - there's an instinctual reaction every one of us has - when something is said or done that ignites a bit of a fight or flight response in us – even something that simply makes us uncomfortable or challenges our world view. That's just that whole ego subconscious desire to keep your whole life familiar so that you can feel safe.
But once that initial chemical and physical reaction cycles through your body - which is less than a couple of minutes long - you are now able to choose how you're going to respond. So, in that moment - if you move to curiosity - instead of fear (or whatever other emotion you use to shuts yourself down) – you are deliberately choosing something new. That’s a great thing – in my humble opinion.
When you choose curiosity - you have an opportunity - of learning something. Now, notice I said you have an opportunity of learning something new - as opposed to you have an opportunity to teach, someone something new. That's the first tool I’m giving you today - walk into the situation - wanting to learn - instead of wanting to teach - because when you're wanting to teach - you're waiting for a break in the conversation - you're not actually listening - so you're not actually a part of the conversation.
Now, you know that what's floating around in your subconscious mind - is all kinds of old shit that you have picked up from your surroundings - and it's filled with other people’s bias, agendas, and unexamined, unchosen beliefs. And that's where the other person is coming from too.
In my experience - when I enter these situations from curiosity - there is an opportunity to actually have a calm clear interaction that results in either an opportunity to take the discussion deeper, or a resolution that just ends in – an agreement to disagree.
But do yourself a favor – when the mood feels right - leave some room for the possibility - that this discussion could actually move you to changing your stance on what you currently value or believe. Be open – even if it’s just a little bit.
Here’s why - I think globally, we're having the types of conversations about privilege, unconscious bias and outright bigoty and racism that we’ve not had to such a degree – in my lifetime.
There are millions and millions of people around the world - who have been walking around completely unaware - that much of their unconscious behaviors and attitudes are steeped in their conditioning. But now that the conversation is becoming more normalized - there are many of us – being challenged to look at ourselves in a new way. And from that new perspective - many people are changing.
So I started all of this – by saying I have a question that you can use – I use different versions of – HOW DID YOU GET THERE? – so I might say - how did you come to believe what it is you believe about – your political candidate or party, your religion, the superiority of your grocery store choice – Netflix vs Prime? Beatles vs Stones, Boxers vs Briefs? I'm curious - I'm genuinely curious - why do you believe - what you believe? If you deliver your question with softness and genuine interest - you might have - a really great conversation on your hands. If the other person isn’t ready – then try it with someone else. But choosing curiosity is such a great way to walk in the world.
My dad - for the first 16 years that I knew him - voted for the party that allowed him and his family to come to our country. It had nothing to do with policies or leadership - it was pure unadulterated loyalty.
Then we moved to another part of the country - where the dominant allegiance leaned heavily in the other direction - and he was influenced very quickly - to move his alliance to a party that stood for completely different things then what you would have thought he stood for, based on who he used to vote for. He was influenced by local media and his peers.
Now my father grew up in a time where it was actually tolerated - to have an incredibly ignorant reaction and opinion to people who did not have the same-coloured skin as he did. But on the other side of that – whenever he saw anyone in need - let's say they're standing at the side of the road. and they need a ride - or their car broke down and they need some help - or they were standing outside a grocery store and needed money for food - he was the first to step in. He didn't think he was a bigot and he seemed to have a great deal of empathy for many individuals - but in the company of people who looked like him – and thought like him - he could be just as comfortable in a conversation filled with stereotyping and ignorance.
I'm sure most of you can identify with that - if it's not how you were raised - maybe it was the way your parents were raised.
Do you still hold a bias – or have you formed a different opinion than you were taught? Can you think of anything in your background that kind of fits in with what I'm talking about? Did your parents, caregivers or early influencers have bias against other religions, other political groups, maybe sports teams or levels of education, or rich people or poor people - the list of our differences can be quite long – and can be viewed with wonder as easily as with disdain.
So, everyone you're encountering in your lifetime - who seems to be on the other side of the fence - could have a somewhat similar background to what I'm describing about my dad or maybe you.
No ones walking around right now saying - hey - I'm going to believe in some really stupid sh!t. I'm just going to be an idiot. I'm just going to be a complete a$$hole - and believe things that are horrible.
It doesn't work that way, does it? We believe in things - because we believe those things are right, they’re true - and by that a mean - right with a capital R and true with a capital T.
So perhaps asking a question as open as - tell me how you got there?
- How have you come to decide that that works for you?
- Why do you feel so strongly about your allegiance - or idea - or value?
But if you’re going down this road - do it from a position of actually wanting to learn!
My father had no idea what the political party stood for - that allowed he and his parents - into our country - decades earlier. He was just loyal because they created an opportunity for him to be safe.
My father had an opinion - that his race was superior - simply because they were in a position of power - and he thought that that position of power – was deserved – I’ll guarantee he never thought about it – he just took it for granted.
I am thankful there is a ground swell of change in the air – coming from the ground up – but know that there's a real advantage when our governments keep the masses living in discord and fear – so if we’re going to make these changes – it is we individuals that are going to make it stick. When the masses are living in fear – they are easy to control. When the masses wake-up – they start thinking for themselves – and then leaders will have to begin to lead. And that’s a whole other ballgame – then what we’re seeing on the world stage right now.
We’re really talking about the power of discernment here. My father wasn't using discernment when he was picking his political party - or what he was feeling about our city sports team - or how he was a devaluing other human beings based on something they could do nothing about.
Where are you not using discernment in your life?
Are you just going along with everyone else at work - jumping on the bandwagon and simply going along for the ride?
Do you vote for who you vote for - because your family has always voted for them or because you actually believe in the policies and track record - and integrity of the leader?
Is your local sports team really the best - and would you jump over all kinds of people in a stadium - to attack and beat up someone wearing a sweatshirt with an opposing team’s logo? This sh!t happens - all the time. And it happens - because nobody's asking questions about how did I get here?
Look - team allegiances are fun, it's playful - it's part of belonging - and appreciation for where you live - but would you die for the cause? Where’s your line? Where’s your line on religious differences, cultural differences, or political differences? What about the rights of people who have lives you don’t value because of their sexuality or gender identity or the fact that they wear socks with their sandals? (Yes, I know I’ve brought that last one up before – it’s just a really big issue for me!)
There are people all over the world dying because of their opinions.
There are all keep kinds of people dying because of what they believe, - and often that's not based on anything other then inherited beliefs and bias. There are people dying and killing over religion, over culture and over skin-color. Religion, culture, skin color, sexual preference or gender is SO little of what we are. Humans are so much more complex than these small insignificant differences.
Becoming curious is part of what it takes to become discerning people.
When you hear comments that smack of them and us - your Spidey senses should be ringing.
When you hear someone else - or yourself – starting a sentence with - they always or they never - there should be a knot in your stomach - or some other signal that says – there’s a lie about to be said.
Who or what are you following - without discernment? Are you working for a company that doesn't stand for the values you hold dear - but they pay really well and the benefits are unreal? Or are you doing something in your work life - or in your relationships - that isn’t what you truly want - but you're afraid - of what walking away - is going to cost you?
Are you following a political party - without being discernment? You just let things slide. You see conflicts of interest or outright lies or policies that are unfair or vindictive - and you just hold on for dear life - that no one else gets into power?
If we think back to last week's blog - when I talked about – how we're all walking around like 7-year old’s - I didn't mean that from the position that we haven't matured as adults. When everything is kind of comfortable, we can act quite mature - quite thoughtful - and we can be engaged - in things that are really for the common good.
The immature 7-year-old - comes out - when our comfort - is being challenged.
This is all part of what I'm doing on this blog - I want you to wake up to the stuff that you think and feel - when your boat is getting rocked.
So, you're in a position - where you think you are being challenged, or disapproved of, or your rights are going to be taken away, or you're scared, or you're nervous for some reason - THIS is when the scared little 7-year-old shows up - and says and does - some really ignorant stuff.
If we can work together to get that 7-year-old grown up - in such a way - that coming up against a new opportunity for learning - gets them jazzed, excited, and curious - instead of shut down, belligerent, and fearful - we can make the world better.
So, what can you do - the next time you have a relative that comes out with some stuff that you've long grown past - and it's in complete conflict with what you hold dear - do you engage in an actual conversation? Would you be able to ask the question of “how did you get there”?
Ask - why do you believe what you believe about this? Is that what you heard from your parents? Or your grandparents? Is that what your religion taught you or your culture? Now remember this only works when you’re genuinely curious – otherwise in can come across as pretty judgy – and that’s not a conversation starter.
I'll admit not everyone is ready for these types of questions - because we've been living in a whole different way with each other. We've written off all kinds of people - because we don't agree with them. And when you do the Them and Us thing you dehumanize people even more - you make them inferior to yourself - so you can - not care - if they’re hurt or suffering. Then – it’s easier to avoid having empathy – especially if they're on the other side of the world or we're on the other side of the issue.
What if part of why you’ve come here – is to be more discerning and show others how to be that too? What’s the end result of us evaluating or beliefs, our customs, our traditions – our bias and our allegiances?
Well – I’ll tell you this – your ego’s going to go crazy – and react in all kinds of childish ways – but hey, you know different! You know you’re on your way – to eliminating all of the areas of your life where you’ve been drifting. You’re waking up. You’re stepping into your power. You’re walking into your purpose, and you’ve got a powerful comeback when your ego starts to do all of that mindless chattering – remember what we talked in previous posts? Yep, that’s the one – I used to believe that – but I know long do, I used to believe that, but I know longer do!
So, are you ready to be curious the next time you see or hear something that ruffles your feathers? Are you going to be more discerning when it comes to the choices you make - or the people you choose to follow? Are you open to changing your mind? Oh, you know you wanna – don’t you?
All of this stuff is Power Leaks, right? You get that? Whenever we move through the world from fear – we are leaking power and it can show up in a million different ways. If you know you’re doing this, and you want to stop – so that you can experience a life lived in AUTHENTIC POWER. Click Here to Learn More!
By Layne Smith-Brown