5 Ways to Reconnect After Conflict

I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours–your Passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.

~Maya Angelou, On The Pulse of Morning

WOW, JUST WOW, JUST WOW. We have been through so much this year as a country, as individuals, and as the world. The excerpt above is from the poem Maya Angelou wrote and recited at the inauguration of Bill Clinton. She was the first woman and first person of color to read a poem at a presidential inauguration. 

Since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to see a woman take office in the White House and I am overwhelmed with emotion and honor that I get to bear witness to this level of progression. Not only a woman but a minority woman with immigrant parents. We have been so divided and so pit against each other that THIS moment in history feels a bit overshadowed. Regardless of your opinions of Madam Vice President-elect, Kamala Harris and her rigid political past, a glass ceiling has been shattered in our presence. 

Now, an important part of her victory speech:

“…[this] is when the real work begins. The hard work. The necessary work. The good work. The essential work to save lives and beat this pandemic. To rebuild our economy so it works for working people.
To root out systemic racism in our justice system and society.
To combat the climate crisis.
To unite our country and heal the soul of our nation.
The road ahead will not be easy.
But America is ready.”

It is time for the work of healing to begin. We have been existing in opposition, in conflict, division – us vs them. Growth and healing can follow or be set in motion by conflict energy but it does not take place there. No one candidate sums up the voices of an entire demographic of people and who someone voted for does not sum up who they are as a person. Not every person who voted blue is looking for a handout and not every person who voted red is a biggot. We have to forgive each other and ourselves for the blindspots we’ve had in the past to make way for enlightenment, unity, and cooperation. Be the change you want to see. 

What’s that? Do I hear you asking how? How do we reconnect after all of this conflict?

Tell Channel 4 GIF by George Michael

PRACTICE Patience & Acceptance.

I say practice because it can be hard & takes practice. Understand that people are taught by trusted thought leaders in their community that toxic judgment and diversity shaming is okay. We all have different backgrounds & experiences, accepting THAT truth doesn’t mean that you are accepting their behavior. 

Focus on the behavior, not the person. 

When someone is being closed-minded or expressing their differing beliefs, try to avoid attacking “who” they are or asking what is “wrong” with them. All this will do is add fuel to the fire because now they are DEFENDING WHO THEY ARE, which they feel is right and good. Instead, say something like “it’s understandable that you may not see how this is insensitive/racist/sexist/whatever but that is how I’m experiencing it and I don’t tolerate that behavior.” If they push the issue, say something like, “I’m happy to have a calm and open-minded conversation where we can learn from each other sometime but I am not looking for conflict.”

If something doesn’t feel right, SEEK CLARITY. SEEK TO UNDERSTAND. 

Sometimes how we perceive something or someone is inaccurate but we can’t truly know this without clarity. Assumptions will cause way more conflict than clarity ever will. If who someone is seems incongruent with a stance they are taking, seek to understand why they believe this stance is better for them or their community. 

Stay focused on the big picture & how you want to experience a diverse world NOT on “winning” or proving your point. 

Remember that diversity adds contrast, texture, and flavor to our world. Choose your battles, choose what you will accept and embrace, and let go of your need to school everyone that is different from you. 

PRACTICE Empathy. 

Again, this is a practice. It can be hard to empathize when something seems so obvious to you and not the other person. BUT we can all relate to what it feels like to be afraid and defeated, we all have a piercing need to feel connected and loved, if nothing else let our common needs, fears, hopes, and wishes be what connects us.