With the end of the 2016 Presidential election, it occurs to me that societal norms are changing rapidly. Some in good ways. Some, not so much.
On one hand, we’re trusting each other more and more. The rise of the sharing economy has us opening up and trusting our fellow man in ways that would’ve been hard to imagine a few years ago. We trust strangers to drive us to and from with Uber. We trust those same strangers to deliver our food orders -- unopened and untested. We trust them to rent our apartments, homes and even spare rooms in our homes with Airbnb. We trust strangers to babysit our kids and dogs on care.com and dogvacay.com. You can even borrow your neighbor’s Porsche on RelayRide. Kids. Dogs. Cars. Now that’s trust.
On the other hand, we’re trusting each other less and less. The sad state of politics has people unfriending each other. It has family members refusing to speak. And it’s opened up a concerning trend of people behaving badly -- and thinking that’s okay. We saw this most recently with students attending a Wisconsin football game dressed as President Obama with a noose around his neck. We saw it with members of the famous Second City improv club quitting, reporting that audiences have become loud and aggressive, shouting out racist and anti-gay comments during performances. And we’re seeing it on Facebook, where there’s a counterpoint to every point.
And apparently now, social media has us increasingly arguing over “fake news,” created to push specific agendas. That’s a thing now -- in the United States of America.
When our political leaders push falsehoods, it can result in the average citizen putting up walls, figuratively and literally. Why should we be expected to trust the news? Our politicians? Coworkers who seem different to us? We have regular -- real and fake -- feedback to the contrary regarding our own leaders, the FBI, other governments and so on.
It occurs to me that if we’re open to one another in the same way that we’re open to the strangers in our lives, we might all be a little better off. Surely, if we can trust in the sharing economy where kind strangers look after our safety, our food and our children, we can trust in humanity just a bit more. Especially when it comes to the people we know and love.
It’s time that we all participate in the sharing economy. Let’s start by sharing a bit more trust and a bit more respect and openness. Let’s start with transparency, decency and honesty -- all great things to share and personally benefit from.
Here are a few ways to open up, be more curious and non-judgemental in the aftermath of this intense political season:
- Practice being open to hearing the other story. There are two sides to every coin. When you engage in dialogue, a world of understanding you never had opens up. Communication is essential. If we really listen, we learn to differentiate the emotional issues that are intended to grab attention, like building walls, and the real issues, like more and more people struggling to make a living and technology displacing entire generations.
- Make friends with your mind. Research shows that mindfulness training helps us focus, gives us greater control over our emotions and increases our capacity to think clearly and act with purpose. One study showed that it even helps mitigate racial and age bias. We all have implicit biases we’re unaware of; it’s important to accept that and work on it. The modern economy requires training for the future. And the mind is key. The world is becoming a smaller place to live with a quickness. Hotter. More crowded. Faster. Louder. And it’s always on. That’s not going away.
Stop yourself. Try to be more accepting of others as they are. A lot of times you won’t see eye-to-eye with people. Trying to get them to understand your point of view might feel like you’re beating a dead horse. Sometimes, it’s better to just listen. Acceptance can go a long way in opening up to others and having them open up to hear you -- another key to breaking through the attention grabbing headlines and get to what’s real to the individual.
This week’s challenge is to be as kind, open and trusting to your neighbor, family and coworkers as you are to the growing number of important strangers in your life.
Come to think of it, it might actually be life’s challenge.