IT’S EASY TO GET STUCK in echo chambers. To listen to people who share our point of view. We like talking to people who agree with us. But it risks feeding polarity.
IDEA #3: Make friends with people who are like-hearted, not just the like-minded.
(This is the 4th blog in an 8-part series: 7 Ideas for Life: An Antidote to Polarity)
What do I mean? Well, let me give you an example.
I’ve walked in the pride parade in Calgary as a citizen and as a politician because I care, a lot, about LGBTQ rights. My great-uncle Arnold was jailed in the 1950s for being gay. Several of my friends were shunned for being lesbian or gay, as young people. This issue touches my heart.
Yet, last year, in what I perceive as a politically-motivated move, people had to apply to walk in Calgary’s pride parade. It wasn’t an open invitation, it was a message that said, if you aren’t like-minded, we don’t want you in this parade.
We all don’t share the same strategies for moving forward on LGBTQ rights, but many of us share the same heart.
This human tendency to seek out people who are like-minded has been well studied. It goes by many names. You’ll be familiar with: confirmation bias, anchoring, framing effects, halo effects, group attribution errors, in group and outgroup homogeneity biases. And there are many more labels.
In simpler terms, when you recognize polarized positioning, when you see that authentic dialogue isn’t happening on an issue you care about because everyone has taken a side, I invite you to step back and take a look at who you are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with.
Is it a bunch of people who are like-minded, or like-hearted? What are their motives?
Let me share another real-life experience.
When sexual harassment would rear its ugly head, decades ago, in energy companies where I worked as a lawyer then businesswoman, an edict would go out from on high that no harassment would be tolerated.
And the result would be a wider and higher gender wall between myself and all the males I worked with. Male bosses even stopped hiring women.
It was tough enough in the 1980s and 90s to be a female in the energy sector, especially working on international projects, and now I was facing an even higher and thicker brick wall.
To move forward, I had to seek out some of the decision-makers and talk about different options that would deal with the harassment and opportunity for women in that workplace.
I’m seeing glimmers of the same, today, in law firms and other places where people are afraid of the liabilities associated with #MeToo.
My strongest allies in situations, like these, are people who were like-hearted. Certainly, everyone wanted to deal with sexual harassment.
But like-hearted people saw a wider range of options and understood the consequences of making rigid, ideological, polarizing decisions that didn’t fully consider the human impacts.
And another, more recent scenario.
In December of 2016, Canada played a leading role at the Paris climate change meetings. What I observed in the lead up to the Paris meetings was a great polarization in the perceptions of what Albertans were thinking about climate change and energy policy.
People outside Alberta believed there were only two brands of Albertans, those who : A) fully supported renewable energy targets, carbon tax, the end of coal, and a shutdown of the oil sands or B) those who believed we could innovate our way of climate change and didn’t support any changes, period. Either/or.
Yet most Albertans don’t hold either of these rigid opinions.
To flesh out what Albertans really believed, and to share those perspectives with others in Paris, I gathered 40 like-hearted people from Alberta to talk to Albertans, as citizens, at their kitchen tables, about what they would like to say in Paris, as citizens.
What would you say in Paris was our question, and we connected directly and via social media with half a million Albertans.
And, we delivered that message in Paris.
Why did this work? Because our team included people from all political stripes, ages, communities. We were unlikely allies.
We were like-hearted, not like-minded on the question of climate change. And we wanted Albertans voices to be heard.
What’s up for next week? IDEA # 4: Know where you lead from.
Do you lead or influence change as an insider, as an outsider, or as someone in between?
When you are trying to close the gap on polarities, it helps to know how you lead.
Until next week!
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Donna Kennedy-Glans, April 29th, 2018