Risky and Reckless

Understanding people who hold opposing political beliefs is hard enough when you rarely meet anyone like that (sorting), harder when they’re a them to your us (othering), and harder still when the stories that surround you give you little if any reason to take even small, slow steps in their direction (siloing).

Add in the tension stirring up society right now, and stepping out of our silos to get a clearer, truer picture of our world and its people can feel not only risky, but reckless.

When the people I walk to get nervous about crossing the political divide, it’s usually because they fear or loathe what they expect to find there and don’t want it to hurt them, stain them, or send bad signals about their goodness, intelligence, or desired impact on their world.

When one person turned down my invitation to join a political other in a public conversation, he told me he was afraid it would validate what he considered dangerous views. “I hope you understand,” he said. When someone who’d joined me in a cross-partisan workshop let me know years later that he’d lost interest in the exercise, he said he’d rather spend his energy advocating for the policies on his side. “I have to help the people who’ve been hurt,” he said. When a brilliant and perceptive conservative woman in my circle declined to join a liberal in a private conversation, she told me she was too scared the liberal would “cancel” her for her views on social media. “I just can’t take that chance,” she said. And when a liberal community organizer told me she supported my work but could never do it herself, she pointed to her experience seeing her family members deported during the last administration. “I can’t do your job,” she told me, “because I can’t see myself getting close to people near Trump.” 

From “I Never Thought of It That Way: How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times” by Mónica Guzmán