I am feeling overwhelmed lately, though not despairing. Far from it. The confluence of factors bearing on us now is unique, and that means the potential for truly creative, unprecedented solutions is great. As a society, we can’t heal what we won’t feel, and we are doing some big, long overdue feeling now.
I am preoccupied not with the conundrum of “What should I say?” because words are cheap and they come to me easily. I’m more concerned with, “What should I do?” This article had some helpful ideas for white people who want to do something about racial justice. I find activities like donating to effective organizations much more worthwhile than bleating on social media, when we know those platforms propagate lies six times faster than they do truths.
It’s also well documented that when we “speak out” on social media, we’re less likely to do anything else on behalf of a just cause. We make a gesture and lose motivation to do anything more. But if the Twitterverse is your thing, go for it.
I’m struck by how many issues have been ignited in recent months. Racism, police brutality, public health, personal freedom, voter suppression, mass telecommuting in all its messy glory, distance learning, media ethics, and of course, politics, politics, politics. The litany is a bomb cyclone of hot buttons, such that there’s something in the mix to stress everybody.
This reminds me of the first lesson taught in the study of conflict management. You boost the chances of any difficult situation coming to a constructive, consensual conclusion if you can approach it calmly. A non-anxious presence–which is very different from standing passively by–signals to all involved that we can tackle our differences without attacking each other. Done right, the non-anxious presences models civility, hope, respect for all, and personal responsibility.
It’s an exhausting role. I used to take it on as a divorce and family mediator, but also in interminable meetings at Social Services. My youthful clients, their families, and a bunch of social workers would try to thrash out a plan for moving a kid’s situation in the right direction. While advocating for the child, I would try to keep track of everybody’s body language and nonverbal cues, do a lot of re-framing, listen much more than I spoke, and intercede if somebody tested the boundaries.
A good conflict manager can herd cats without the cats knowing they’ve been herded, and it all starts with being able to find the quiet, strong, loving place inside, and offering that place for others to share. Winning arguments starts with facts, logic and rhetoric but winning hearts starts with kindness, patience, and focus.
Says me, and some good conflict managers. So how do you protect and nurture the quiet, strong, loving place inside in these daunting times? (And yes, oh by the way, A Lady’s Dream Come True downloads from the major retail outlets starting Tuesday, and you can already buy the ebook from the webstore and the print book from Amazon).
I’ll donate $50 to the charity of one commenter’s choice, so starting chiming in!