RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Yelling at each other never solves a society’s problems. It can, however, add to them.
Recently, we’ve seen people lashing out, even to the point of violence, across this country. In Rio Rancho, we’ve heard hateful, divisive language and seen individuals come to the edge of violence.
If we can’t unite to solve our problems, they will likely never be solved.
People need to quit stereotyping each other. Black people, White people, law-enforcement officers, protesters — people in whatever classification someone may use — aren’t just one thing and aren’t all the same.
Treating someone as an enemy or inferior because of skin color, job title or even political affiliation is unjust. So is judging people before observing what they do and say.
It widens divisions in society, making us that much weaker.
Divisive rhetoric and overly broad accusations alienate people who would otherwise want to help make improvements, as they feel vilified and unwelcome.
The issues of racial equality, law and order, justice and peace shouldn’t even involve “sides.”
In a just society, there’s no room for hate, prejudice and vitriol directed at anyone over race, external appearances or preconceived notions.
Surely, we all want a just society to enjoy life and liberty, and pursue happiness in peace. That’s a foot of common ground, and a starting point.
We can’t keep forming opposing camps and screaming accusations at each other. We must set aside preconceived notions, speak respectfully and listen to people of all demographics, views and experiences.
Then we have to work together toward solutions.
If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.
Findings from a study at The University of Texas at Austin Center for Media Engagement suggest five guidelines for speaking with someone with opposing views:
- Focusing on people: Build relationships and get to know others with different views. Don’t take comments in a political discussion personally. Share your relevant experiences. Also, use information you learned while getting to know the other person to offer relatable hypothetical situations.
- Finding common ground: Attempt to bond over less polarized issues and be open to listening and understanding what the other person says. Ask questions to better understand. Focus on shared beliefs.
- Sticking to facts and avoiding confrontation: Convey information that can be verified and back up opinions with evidence. Try to limit discussion of emotion and avoid confrontational or divisive language.
- Being an advocate, not an opponent: Adopt a conversation style based on the other person. If someone seems calm, pauses in conversations and uses casual language, speak in a similar manner, but not to the point of mockery. If someone speaks in an academic pattern and is clear and direct, adjust your conversation style to better convey a message.
- Pick your battles: Focus on local politics, where citizens have the most influence, instead of national politics. Most importantly, focus on policies, not parties. Pick your battles on hot-button issues and avoid them when possible.
Following these guidelines, people are more likely to reach an understanding. Please consider trying them in your next discussion.