Who Will You Be in Divisive Times?

Here are some key practices for dissolving dehumanization:

  1. Replace asking “what’s wrong with them?” with “what’s their story?” Wonder what happened in their lives that caused them to be/see/think/feel this way. Cultivate curiosity.
  2. Reclaim our sensitivity. Counterintuitively, sensitivity strengthens us. Connect with whatever feelings we want to avoid: vulnerability, fear, worry, helplessness. Practice staying with our feelings: once our feelings are presence-ed, healing follows. Our hearts soften. Whatever we cannot feel, results in a hardened, psychological scab inside of us that adds to the collective desensitization.
  3. Connect to our shared humanity, our collective human needs. Most of us long for more safety, trust, freedom, connection, belonging, and significance. Let’s start working for more of that in the world. Validate the person and their humanity (not their attitude or behavior per se). Focus on what deeply universal human needs they are trying to serve. Humanize them.
  4. When you disagree with someone about anything, name the issue at hand and express curiosity about their thinking on the issue. Listen deeply and non-reactively. Reflect their words back to them. Check for understanding and accuracy.
  5. Reveal your own humanity. Instead of arguing, explaining, or justifying a position, choose to tell a personal story about how you developed your own loving, thoughtful, and respectful position on this issue.

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Yvette Erasmus PsyD

Yvette Erasmus PsyD

Writer, speaker, psychologist, and consultant offering practical tools and insights for conscious, compassionate, courageous living. Based in Minneapolis, MN.