There is no irony in the fact that Thanksgiving, supposedly our national day of gratitude and unity, falls just weeks after the midterm elections, which are likely to reveal the many ways in which we despise each other. Good luck in avoiding politics while sharing your innards with your uncle.
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So much ink has been spilled over the country's current spasm of venomous tribalism, but very few people are doing anything about it. I recently met some people who are. Better Angels is a nonprofit, "bourgeois" movement worn by citizens on both sides to bring together the blues and shades of red to speak in workshops across the country to make a broader attempt to "depolarize America." The name of the group comes from the first opening speech of Abraham Lincoln's famous appeal to the country on the brink of civil war. He suggested that the nation could reaffirm its ties if Americans listened to the "better angels of our nature."
I attended the first meeting of the group in June this year. In fact, my team of Nightline followed two of the most unlikely political bedfellows imaginable when they came together for the event. Greg Smith is a retired police chief and construction worker from rural southwestern Ohio. He is a devout evangelist and trumpist. Kouyar Mostashfi, an Iranian immigrant, is a computer engineer who lives in a suburb of Dayton, where he is an active member of the local Democratic Party. They live only a few miles apart, but can also inhabit separate planets. By participating in Better Angels workshops, they have become real friends.
When they drove from Ohio to Virginia to the convention grounds in Virginia, Smith and Mostashfi talked about everything from abortion to gun rights, all while civilizing it. As? Appropriately enough, Better Angels' approach has been developed by a marriage counselor who has developed practical, actionable tips to survive all encounters with the other tribe, and perhaps even have a polite dialogue with family, friends or colleagues.
1) Do not try to change your mind.
Per Bill Doherty, the gray-haired, hypocritical marriage counselor who designed the Better Angels approach to inter-party dialogue when your interlocutor feels that "your goal is to show them." If they are stupid, they will set up their defense. "Instead, just try to understand where people are coming from.
2) I make statements of "I" rather than truth statements.
For example, a Democrat could be luckier if he told a Trump supporter: "I'm afraid President Trump is violating the pay clause in the constitution." And not "The President is irrevocably corrupt and you're a terrible person because You support him. "
3) Do not describe the opinion of the other side. just characterize your own.
For example, a Trumper is advised to say, "I'm worried that the economy will be burdened with higher taxes" and not "you Democrats just want to eat at the bottom of a bloated welfare state."
The goal is not to convince people to abandon their core principles, but to achieve what Doherty calls "exact disagreement" when you see that members of the other side have reasons to believe what they are doing – even if you do not agree With them, it can bring about humanization. It is a strong corrective to the news and social media echo chambers that inhabit most of us, demonizing our opponents and confirming our prejudices.
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I have no illusions that the Better Angels techniques are a panacea for the complex problem of polarization, nor Doherty, who willingly admit it Working with couples at a crossroads is easier than working with people on the other side of America's political divide. At least married couples have "obligations to each other," he says. "There is the glue that brought them together". Still, I believe that Doherty's tips can be a salvation when it gets tense at the Thanksgiving table or wherever other political issues crop up. As a newspaper man with an active side job in the world of mindfulness, I think you can practice the Better Angels approach through meditation. When I interviewed Doherty during the Better Angels Convention, I was completely surprised to learn he was a longtime meditator.
This is how meditation can help: Talking to people you disagree with is difficult, and the key to a successful discussion is to stick together. Meditation helps to keep you from getting carried away by your emotions. The self-awareness generated by a conscious, daily weighing with the voice in the head can make these crazy moments smoother. Sure, you may still have a tantrum, but you may have more room for a healthier train of thought: Oh, my chest is buzzing, my ears are blushing, I'm experiencing a starburst of self-righteous thought. , , I work my way to a foam. If you have that kind of self-confidence, you do not have to take the bait and succumb to your anger. Instead, you can follow the tips from Better Angels more easily. At least you can stay calm and collected at the dining table.
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Just try meditation practice – you even work in your everyday life – and next time you're politics you are better prepared:
1) Sit down comfortably and close your eyes. A chair is fine, but if you feel supple, you can sit cross-legged on the floor.
2) Pay close attention to how your breath comes in and out. Pick a spot where you can feel your breath the most. As breast, abdomen or nostrils.
3) Whenever you get distracted, just start again. Many people are hung up on this last step. They believe that failure to 'purify' the mind means they are doing it wrong. But clarifying the mind is impossible – unless you are enlightened or dead. In fact, the moment you wake up from the distraction is a gain. If you see how crazy you are, craziness has less chance of owning you.
Through meditation you get some distance – some journalistic distances, if you will – from the continuous nebulization of your ego so you can answer For example, your uncle's ideas about taxes that you vehemently oppose should not be blind pronounce. Learning how to react and not react is a superpower when it comes to the thorny task of dealing with political opponents. (We've created a few meditations on the 10% Happier app to help you improve those skills. Go to 10percenthappier.com/menshealth for free access.)
Rather than avoiding They all, with whom you disagree, a discussion. If appeals to patriotism or compassion do not work for your opponents, do it yourself. Trust me not to own your anger is a much better way to live. You can see that powerfully when you meditate. I saw it powerfully even at the Better Angels meeting – these people, ideological enemies, actually had a good time and did not like to agree. It could help you too. I can not guarantee that a mind mixes with the opposition, but it can guarantee a moment of courtesy. Even with your uncle.