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Hi there,,

Yesterday night, I watched a Dutch television show called ‘vaccinatie vetes’ - which would translate to something like ‘vaccination fights’.

The show was about people who weren’t vaccinated, and showed how they were ridiculed, scapegoated, and pretty much exiled from their communities. Some of them were reconnected with their vaccinated friends in the show, but for others, the door was kept shut.

And even though I’m vaccinated and would love others to do the same for the sake of our society, I was left with a deep sense of grief after watching the show.

I’m really worried about the polarization that is happening in the world, that I experienced for the first time on a deep level when Trump was elected and that now only seems to spread.

And what I find particularly worrying is how we tend to stop communicating with the people we disagree with, and are willing to excommunicate our family members or friends over this single issue, seemingly forgetting all the good things we share with them.

So instead of sharing a list of things that I’ve learned or love as I normally do in this email, this is my appeal for opening up more dialogues in a divided world - and some things that have helped me do that.

And especially since I know this is a sensitive topic for most of us, I would love to hear from you about any experiences or challenges you have with this.

INSIGHT 1: REALIZE THAT WE ARE ALL COMMUNICATING FROM A PLACE OF FEAR & DEFENSIVENESS

Whenever we have a conversation about vaccinations (or American presidents, or any other tense topic) with someone with an opposite view, we tend to communicate from a place of fear - whether that is fear of getting sick with covid, or fear of the government taking control of you, or fear of putting unknown substances into your body.

You can probably feel your body tense up when you even think about having a conversation with someone you don’t agree with. When we are in a state of fear, we literally are less capable to see the big picture, or think creatively and constructively - and our tendency is to become super defensive.

So the very first thing we need to do is to acknowledge this, and to create ways to make it safe for everyone to express opinions and perspectives.

INSIGHT 2: THE GOAL IS NOT TO CONVINCE EACH OTHER

Whether it’s conscious or not, when you engage with people with an opposite view, you most likely will want to convince them of your perspective. You might throw all kinds of facts and insights at each other, not even really listening to what the other has to say.

I believe it really helps to take a step back to think about what you both could gain from having such a difficult conversation.

For me, it is often about cherishing connection in a world that seems so divided. It hurts my heart to see people ‘breaking up’ with friends and family members, and I don’t want that to happen to my cherished friendships.

A second reason for me to engage with people with opposite opinions, is that I don’t believe there is an ultimate truth. It’s so easy to end up in an echo chamber of people believing Trump is an idiot, or vaccinations are the only way out of this pandemic, and to alienate from people who have a different view and make them the enemy. So in order for me to be able to think independently, I need to get out and engage with views that might be uncomfortable for me.

And every time I did this, whether it was with the Uber drivers in the US who had voted for Trump, or friends who didn’t get the vaccine, I could physically feel something softening in me. It didn’t necessarily change my views, but I felt much more connected to the other person, because on a deeper level, our needs and values are so similar.

STRATEGY 3: DO EVERYTHING THEY SAY IN THE BOOK ‘CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS’

I’d highly recommend checking out Crucial Conversations, which is filled with tips & tricks for how to talk when ‘the stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong’ - sounds familiar right ;)

I refer to it all the time for clients that need to have difficult conversations at work, but it truly hits home for ‘vaccination fights’ as well.

Here’s a nice summary (also in audio).

As always, I’d love to hear from you!

P.S. Did you see my new website? I am very proud of it 🤩 Let me know what you think!

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