When working with clients, we often discuss looking through the lens of others in order to identify how they view a situation. I believe different lenses are the root cause of conflict in the workplace. As I see more and more vitriol during this election season, I wonder why this is happening now more than ever and how it relates to my work as a navigational facilitator. There seems to be one common denominator – technology.
For all of its benefits, technology has also enabled us to put blinders on and customize our lives. We can watch television news networks that cater to our political ideology. Our social media feeds make suggestions for us based on things we like or previously searched for online. We are typically “friends” with those who think like us. We are bombarded with information, products, and media that are personalized to us. In short, we can filter out that which we don’t like, don’t agree with and don’t want to consider. We never have to understand the perspective of others or consider why they believe what they believe. It is a self- fulfilling prophecy that reinforces how we think and live.
This approach only works until we are faced with family, friends, co-workers, or acquaintances that post or say something we disagree with. We ask ourselves, “What could they possibly be thinking?” We become incensed that they could be so incredibly misinformed. Are they not watching the same news and reading the same blogs that I am? Actually, no they are not because they don’t have to. If you watch MSNBC or CNN (aka “liberal media”) you are going to hear completely different commentary, conversations and news reporting than if you watch Fox News (aka “conservative media”).
Since last fall I have been purposely channel hopping every day. I am blown away by what I see. There are two radically different sets of facts and perspectives for everything that happens. We all know this is not an accident. These networks know their preferred audience and their coverage validates their viewers’ preferred reality. For me, I feel calmer and justified when I watch the network that is closer to my political perspective. When I watch the opposite lens, I feel my heart race, and my frustration and anger rise wondering why they are telling lies.
I have witnessed incredible comments and disgusting name calling on social media the last few months between “friends” or family that refuse to consider the other person’s perspective let alone respect and honor it. Organizations are curtailing all political conversation in the workplace because it is causing division and actual hate. What are we doing?
When working with clients, we take the time to understand how others view the world of work and how diversity of thought is actually exponentially better for the success of organizations. We unpack different perspectives and work to understand the WHY of others’ thoughts, beliefs and actions. When we only look through our own lens, we can never truly see the same picture as others do.
Here is my recommended action plan for successfully navigating the next 90 days of election season:
- Press pause and know your own lens. Being self-aware is half the battle.
- Let go of being right and consider there may be another perspective.
- Take a deep breath, change the channel, and work to understand why others may view things differently.
- Realize that you posting your negative opinions of oppositional views will most likely not change the opinions of others, but it may offend someone you love.
- Fact-check what you post. I know this one is a long shot but think about how much better the world would be if everyone fact checked what they posted.
- Try a civil face-to-face conversation with someone who thinks differently. Respect the differences in opinions and LISTEN more than you SPEAK.
- Stop trying to convince others they are stupid because they don’t look at the world as you do.
- If you know your candidate, “channel” your passion and formally volunteer with his/her campaign
- Prioritize your relationships and agree to disagree without judgment.
- Realize that come November, the outcome is one we cannot change.
- Choose kindness over anger and hate.
Join me and #changethechannel. Tell me how it goes, what lessons you learned, and what happens when you look through a different lens.