This polarization is particularly easy to see in the arena of politics. Conservatives and progressives, right and left, Republican and Democrat, Socialist or Capitalist, labels come easy. With the labels come a whole host of other factors that follow our polarized mindset. Our opponents are deceived or misled at best, while we ourselves, and those who fall into a similar category, alone claim enlightened thinking and clarity of perception. Of course, the opposition sees the situation completely differently.
I don’t mind polarization, per se. I am glad when I see people becoming passionate about issues, about problems they see and actions that they believe contain solutions. Unfortunately, with the polarization often comes an unwillingness to listen, a complete lack of civility. We tend to behave as if our conviction of opinion allows no room for dialogue and discussion. As a result, labels give way to slurs, and slurs to mudslinging and mudslinging to even more destructive and disruptive behaviors.
As a man of Style and Substance, I have been working very hard to be different in the way that I approach the subject of beliefs and the polarization that can occur. I have found 5 practices that have helped to restore some measure of civility in the dialogue I have had with others. I offer them here for your consideration.
1. Never use a term you wouldn’t use to address your Grandmother. If you are like me, you revere your grandmothers. Even when they were difficult to talk to, maybe even difficult to understand, set in their ways and feisty when encouraged to consider a different point of view, you would still be gentle and respectful. No cross words, no name calling, and certainly no effort to degrade her. She was your Grandma, after all, and whether you win an argument or not, nothing would be worth hurting her. Consider that the next time you are tempted to hurl some pithy quote about someone’s mental stature or their level of intellectual strength.
2. Ask yourself, “Would I say this to a parent about their newborn baby?” Is your comment or criticism going to help bring more civility to the conversation? A sure way to tell is to replace the reference to the other individuals opinion or position with the phrase, “your baby.” Do you think that someone could hear you say what you are about to say about their child without being hurt or angry? Then you might be on the right track. If not, then perhaps rethinking the comment is in order.
These concepts might be easily portrayed as competing ideas, presenting exactly opposite perspectives on the way of handling life. Small stuff holds the key to big stuff! Don’t sweat the small stuff! One seems to be rooted in the past, hearkening to the organic processes of growth and finding examples in building walls, bridges, homes and great buildings. The other appears connected to our present, finding corollaries in our use and understanding of big data, socio-economic trends and population analysis.
The big stuff in our lives are the long term outcomes, the things that are not transitory, things like family, careers and significant friendships. Frequently in this blog and in the many presentations I have given, I have referred to these as the Facets of Life. It has always been my contention that in order to live a life of style and substance a man must be vigilant regarding the health of each facet. I also contend that the best way to ensure that the Facets of Life remain healthy is by “sweating the small stuff” in each Facets.
Think in terms of routines. Trying to make sure that you get some physical activity in, but can’t go to the gym? Try doing some push ups and squats every time you stand up from your desk at work! Not connecting with your family to the degree you would like? Start a group chat and share a text with a positive, uplifting idea first thing in the morning (maybe before you even get out of bed) and then watch the conversation thread grow and look at it when you can.
Think about technology. Reading is key for most of us who want to improve how we handle life, but when do we have the time? Most of us can find small blocks of time (see above) but don’t have a book with us all the time, unless you have kindle or another e-reader. Consider keeping that app filled and ready for a sliver of time to open and be filled with a good book. Also, you might want to consider a subscription to audible, or finding other ways to get books on CD or audio file.
Think about others. Does it take long to smile? No, not really. Try it right now! Smiling is perhaps one of the easiest things to do in the world, but few of us take time to do it. We generally wait for someone around us to smile first, and since they are often doing the same, we pass the vast majority of human kind without so much as a cheerful greeting. That is unfortunate, because I have noticed in my own life that when someone greets me with a smile, my whole day is better. Perhaps it would be best to remember to do that for others.
Think about your wardrobe. As a man of style and substance, the wardrobe should be well taken care of. That isn’t to say that everything you wear needs to be trendy and expensive. However, when the clothes you wear are clean and well taken care of, interesting things happen. For instance, your confidence goes up. After all, if you know that you are wearing clothes that fit and don’t smell like they have been sitting in a locker, who wouldn’t be confident!
Think about thinking. Throughout the day, stray thoughts are likely to wander into your mind. Being aware of them can help us take control of the outcomes that follow us. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to stay cheerful when you are thinking about good things happening? Conversely, have you noticed how easy it is to lose that cheerful feeling when your focus is taken to something going wrong? In that case, I choose to try to keep my thoughts on the good that is happening around me!
There you go! six things to help you “Sweat the small stuff!” And by doing so, consistently, success in the big things in life is sure to be more pronounced, more frequent, and more likely to be permanent!