Magic Steps for Reaching People Who Are Polarized from Us

It’s a difficult world to maneuver when there is so much disagreement, not just in politics, but in our private lives.

Master Debater, Julia Dhar provides “magic” steps to reaching people who are polarized from us. Click on the photo to watch the provocative TEDTalk and get a shot at mega-mature productive disagreements, or start by reading this brief summary:

  1. Find common ground (no matter how narrow it is). Focus on the shared reality we all inhabit.
  2. Separate ideas from identity. We will have the best chance at dialog if we focus on the least personal version of the idea, rather than attacking the individual.
  3. Open up to the humility of uncertainty. Pre-commit to the possibility of being wrong. The best leaders of all time have this intellectual humility, displayed in their willingness to learn. (see Mr. Rogers and his appeal to Congress)

Perfect Timing!

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Anticipating interruptions has become my primary manner for warding off frustration.

In a work environment, my sanity rules (adopted from Bernie Beck) are:

  • Tasks generally take 50% longer to accomplish than you think they will
  • 25% of my time should be unscheduled to account for the overflow and the unexpected
  • Be gracious to interrupters
  • Manage up, across, and down by setting boundaries

At home:

  • Expect the best, be prepared for the worst
  • Be gracious to interrupters
  • Remember that relationships are more important than efficiency

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“Extraordinary things happen to extraordinary people to prepare them for extraordinary destinies.” -C.S. Lewis

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Why-I’m-Acting-the-Way-I’m-Acting Reminder

If I hurt your feelings…

If I missed the point…

If I don’t get you…

If I am not excited about your idea…

If I am bored…

If I am irritating…

It may because I didn’t remember that you don’t think the way I think, communicate the way I communicate, or prefer the things that I prefer.

As this pic cleverly demonstrates, we may all be “Legos” but we are all not the same type of Lego.

In the pic, the green (Show Me You Care) block represents the Feelers among us who value compassion and peace-making above all. The blue (Give Me Details) block represents the Thinkers who value accuracy and facts above all. The yellow (Involve Me) block represents the Talkers who value fun, inclusion, and collaboration above all. And the red (Be Brief, Be Bright, Be Gone) block represents the Doers who value decisive action above all else.

Smart Legos don’t roll their eyes. They remember why.

Wait for It

Some people seem to know their path from birth. Some find their path as a child. Others before they are twenty.

I was always jealous of those people.

Now, I know that finding my path at 48 was a pretty cool thing. There had always been a path to that place. My path was unlike all others.

Still, there are others who only find their path in death. There had always been a path. Their path was unlike all others.

Waiting for it is wise.

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First Sign of Blindness

First sign of blindness is a compulsion to point out the blindness of others.

When I meet someone who…

  • Does not rush to condemn others

  • Shares responsibility for dysfunction

  • Resists justifying themselves

  • Doesn’t resist outside perspectives, and

  • Doesn’t feel compelled to tell me how good they are or how blameless their opinions are…

I believe in the miracle of sight.

How to Instantly Improve Communications

A disgruntled employee told me she could write a book about the dysfunctional communication in her company. After finally accepting some of the responsibility for the dysfunction, she is now sending me copies of praise emails she is sending and receiving from her team. The latest ended with this exclamation:

“…tears of joy! How can you not feel positive when you’re making other people feel good?! Thanks for having such a positive impact on my life – work and personal.”


There is only one big obstacle (ourselves)

Separating us from this joy (ourselves)

But, when scaled

Leaves us with more

Than we ever

Dared to dream

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Image result for the power of thanks

The fast train to better, sweeter, and richer communication…

When I Don’t Feel Empathetic

When I remember that…

  • Every person I encounter is much more than meets the eye, it is easier for me to treat them with kindness, even when I don’t approve of their behaviors.
  • Others have fought their own demons as I have fought mine, I am less prone to blame or shame them.
  • People crave love and respect just as I do, it curbs my aggressive or passive aggressive behaviors.

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Taking the time to do that, before reacting, is the key.

Or, we can keep the madness going.

Dear God, Please Help Them to Change.

A manager I know has a very inspiring poster on his door about leadership and accountability. It is obvious that he knows the value of these qualities.

It is also obvious that he avoids conflict.

Outside his door, the employees fester with discontent, confusion, drama, and unhealthy competition. Turnover is high. Energy is low.

He hopes that someday things will improve.

He doesn’t know that it is his move.

He also doesn’t know that once he sets clear boundaries, has the courage to quit making excuses, and to follow up tenaciously with coaching and development plans, his fear of conflict will go away.

Those things that we complain about, that keep us awake at night, that drain our energy during the day are actually in our hands to fix. Here is the formula:

  1. An apology
  2. Honest ownership of the dysfunction
  3. Agreement to start over
  4. Setting a when-things-fall-apart contingency

For the manager to his employees, it might sound like this:

“I owe you an apology. I have failed you by not communicating my expectations clearly and by failing to deal with things as they came up. Can we start over? Here is my specific wish-list. What is yours? Let’s talk again in a few days, see how we are doing, and recalibrate if necessary.”

Sometimes, the relationship will not work despite our best efforts, but we will never know if it could have been fixed if we don’t take responsibility for our part first.


  1. Are you assuming people know what you are unhappy about?
  2. Are you expecting those around you to read your mind or to interpret the world through your eyes?
  3. Have you been honest enough to state your desires with emotional detachment (minus the drama)?
  4. Have you remembered that your happiness is not dependent upon what others do but upon your own courage to move forward?
  5. Do you set contingencies in order to avoid indigestion and regression when things go sideways?

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A Payoff from the Process

Acceptance of one’s life has nothing to do with resignation; it does not mean running away from the struggle. On the contrary, it means accepting it as it comes, with all the handicaps of heredity, of suffering, of psychological complexes, and injustices. – Paul Tournier
That’s a heck of a lot to accept.
Who wants to accept hereditary handicaps, suffering, psychological baggage, topped off with injustices?
Not me. Not anyone. That’s awful!
Yet, nature teaches that there will be a transformation and a payoff…when I decide to submit to the mysterious usefulness of all the awful stuff  that I wanted to be angry about.
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Or I can stay angry, miss the blossoming, and make a lot of people miserable in the process.

Poser Power?

Pretending to be something I am not might give me temporary power or prestige. But, continuing to pretend will tear up my moral fiber and my digestive track. Both will effect my longevity and my quality of life. That discomfort motivates me to be real, genuine, transparent, and humble.

Being around someone who isn’t posing, but finds their significance from within rather than from without, is so refreshing! When I have the rare privilege of meeting someone like that, I am energized, the air is charged, and the whole world feels like home. That comfort motivates me to be real, genuine, transparent, and humble.

…which saves me lots of time and mental energy.

Win for me-Win for people who have to live around me-Win for people who may need me in the future

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