Updated: Jul 21
When it comes to culture, people, politics, religion, friendships, do you identify strongly with one side’s beliefs over the other?
How many people have you seen break up their friendship, a good working relationship or even a marriage because of their polarized views on some topic?
As someone who’s studied and observed human behaviors for over 3 decades now, I can tell you that polarization does not work. And now more than ever, people, young and old, are crying out so loud that their way is somehow the right way, the only way, and that ‘the others’ are wrong.
The sad thing about all of this is that we are conditioning our brains and our hearts to believe that divided is better than whole. And we’re passing these beliefs down to the younger generations.
I mean, I just saw an article on LinkedIn that said “Gen Z doesn’t want to be your tech support” meaning the young workers don’t want to spend time helping their older colleagues with some of the new technologies. I mean WTF? What happened to we all help one another with what our strong characteristics and skills are to make the world a better place (or in this case, the company you’re working for?)
Sure, it’s comforting to know that other people think and act just like you do. And it’s natural for us to magnetically attract similar minded people. But does that mean that you have to disrespect or ‘hate’ on those who are not in your camp?
From watching two women who barely know each other come to the conclusion that they hate one another to watching long time friends break up with one another because of polarized political viewpoints to witnessing couples on the verge of break up due to their cultural differences, political differences and/or religious differences, it’s no wonder our world is so divided right now.
But there’s a dim light trying desperately to shine through in all of this.
When I was a young girl, I learned that the best way to arrive at an optimal solution was to always look at both sides. Not just on a very surface level, but on a deep level. I can honestly say that this approach has served me well my entire life. Especially with my relationships, personal and professional.
You see, I was submersed in a culture growing up that didn’t always feel right to me. And I was also submersed in beliefs that didn’t sit well with me. My parents belonged to the camp of Chinese immigrants from Taiwan that came over who said “you will always be Chinese, not American”. And when I got a little older, I met other Chinese families that belonged to a different camp. The one that believed “now that we live in America, we should integrate ourselves into the American culture”. Both camps thought that they were in the right. I wasn’t convinced of either. What happened to finding the balance? And then when I got even older, I learned that this was also the case with some religions. “Those people are all going to hell. We are not because we believe in X”. Oh, and let’s not forget about what girls can and can’t do vs what boys can and can’t do. Or which ethnicity is the superior one. Ugh.
There were so many polarized viewpoints that I was forced to take a different approach. Especially when I didn’t fully buy into either side. I discovered how to 1) be open to each viewpoint and learn their why. Choose to understand. You’d be amazed at people’s ‘why’ when you dig a little deeper. And 2) come up with my own conclusion, and no one else’s. Choose balance over polarization. After all, you have a brain. Ten out of ten times there were pros and cons to both sides.
Now imagine if our world could collectively execute this approach. Choose to understand both sides first. And then come up with a collective conclusion that benefits us as a whole.
I mean, we like to say we do this (for example, we’re big on ‘collaboration’), but when our role models are not actually doing it, well, what’s that saying to the rest of us?
So you see, our world has a long way to go yet. The maturity level of our race, the human race, as a whole is still elementary at best.
But let’s not give up on hope. You can be the difference maker. You can choose balance over polarization. Start by practicing with those closest to you. Your family. Your partner. Your work colleagues. Your friends. And maybe your community, too.
Sending you love and light 💖