Our Silos of Thought.
America! America? How did we get here? How did we become so divided? The Right. The Left. You’re with us or against us. Good or bad. Right or wrong. Little room in the middle for a third way or compromise. For so many in local and national government, compromise has become a negative word.
When did this happen? And why? Isn’t our democracy structured around a commitment to compromise? We are charged to debate different points of view until a compromise is reached to serve the greater good.
When I started in radio station management thirty years ago, a new radio format emerged: talk radio. We looked for hosts to discuss the issues of the day. Rush Limbaugh was newly-syndicated. We searched for articulate and passionate talent representing conservative and progressive points of view. This was before the media found gold in Red versus Blue America. Newt Gingrich was beginning to form his “Contract with America.” Bill O’Reilly was our NBC local news anchor in Portland Oregon. I was distressed. I was naïve. The early nineties were tame.
As a Baby Boomer, I feel a sense of responsibility to help shift the conversation. I fear we are captive to our “silos of thought.” We select news sources and use social media to justify our own points of view. What is the source of my news? How do the social media platforms I follow influence my daily mindset? My parents’ age group, the Silent Generation, lived with no social media until the end of their adult lives. Allowed to do its job, the US Congress of this time accomplished historic volumes of work by compromising, collaborating, and listening to opposing views.
Why am I afraid to discuss politics with a family member, neighbor, or co-worker? Do you have any of these same fears? I don’t believe I am alone.
What happens if I take a risk and speak to just one person who thinks differently about America? Can I listen without judgment? Can I move beyond my own mindset? Can I stay calm and respond thoughtfully, waiting to react until I consider what has been shared? Am I really interested in learning an opposing view? What can I learn from those I do not understand?
I know there is a difference between doing something and being something. I want to be willing to get out of my own way, my own mindset. I want to listen to a different point of view until I understand it, whether or not, in the end, I agree with it. If I can truly be curious and listen without trying to impose my own views, I am closer to being the change agent needed to create compromise. Doing is initiating a conversation. Staying grounded, listening, trying to understand, and building common ground – this is being a change agent. The question starts with me, how can I be the change agent? The “doing” part is so much easier than the “being” part.
I know I have more in common with people I don’t understand than whatever issue it is that divides us. If democracy is to flourish, we must find common ground and on it build a stronger America. If not, our “silos of thought” may destroy us from within.
Rocky is a Stanford Fellow/Partner in the DCI ’19 (Distinguished Careers Institute) and an accomplished yoga teacher and mindfulness practitioner. www.rockyblumhagen.com https://rockyblumhagen.com/our-silos-of-thought-expanded-thoughts/.