Perhaps, like me, you’ve felt sadly concerned over the growing divisiveness in our nation. When I read the news or listen to weekly roundtable discussions, the voices calling for understanding and unity are often drowned out by angry shouts from opposing sides where people are digging deeper trenches, preparing for battle.
Each side is absolutely convinced they are right. So sure, in fact, that the only reason they consider a differing opinion is to find the best argument against it. They don’t listen. They aren’t curious. Neither side seems interested in understanding an alternative point of view.
On a smaller scale, I witness the same dynamic in my office each week.
In one of my graduate school classes, we were shown a video of a real couple in their first session of marriage counseling. The intent of the video was to help us recognize the benefits of a certain model of behavioral therapy, but it had the opposite affect on me.
The wife seemed sad as she talked about the disconnection she felt from her husband and about the frequency of their arguments. The counselor started teaching them how to use good communication skills (use "I" not "you", avoid accusations, talk about how you feel, be a good listener, summarize each other's point of view, etc.). Their follow-up sessions continued in much the same manner as they trained to become experts in wielding their new tools.
The video then skipped to several months later. What we were suppose to learn from the video was how well the couple had improved their communication. But what struck me was how sad the wife still looked and how she used her tools to express the same loneliness she'd felt months earlier. Their problem was a lack of connection; poor communication was the symptom, not the cause.