Can You Find The Middle Ground Between You and Your Opponent?

Leadership Lesson: Merely talking at someone and repeating your own talking points repeatedly does nothing to move the overall message, relationship, and environment forward.

The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election has already gone down as one of the most contentious, divisive, and combative election cycles in United States history.

The term “trickle-down,” aside from being used for economic purposes, could also be used to describe how these antagonistic feelings cascaded from the Presidential campaign down to the Congressional elections, to the state elections, and finally into the general public, impacting the relationships of citizens, friends, and family, alike.

Very rarely were there moments of concession, if at all. In recalling the entire cycle, it only seemed as if there was only one concession with that one being the end-of-Election-Night concession call from Secretary Hilary Clinton to the new President-Elect Donald Trump. But even that was more of a traditional formality than a genuine acknowledgement by one side of the other.

These were contestants who in their third debate were actually asked to state something they admire about the other candidate. That’s how much they needed to be reminded to play nice but, even then, they gave the easiest answer they could, the moment didn’t last at all, and it was painful to watch as they tried.

Unfortunately, healthy debates were few and far between.

The only thing one side would seem to ever give the other side was enough metaphorical rope to hang themselves instead of any type of positive attention such as credit, respect, or admiration. It was an ugly display of conduct all throughout.

So what do we take from this? What can we learn about one another and ourselves? Can we learn from one another? Can we admit we can learn from one another?

The hardest part of watching the election cycle was seeing how far divided everyone seemed to be, as if they had absolutely nothing in common and nothing similar on the line. We keep forgetting the importance of addressing each other in a civil manner at the most common and basic level. Yes, easier said than done, but the greatest thing in the world we can do for another human being is acknowledge them. That’s the number one rule. If you can do that, you’re already on the path to effective and successful leadership development.

Related: As a Leader, To Understand All Your Resources, First Seek to Acknowledge and Understand

It might be a lofty suggestion that acknowledgement is powerful tool to leadership, but it is absolutely true because it opens the door to understanding. You can’t teach, influence, admire, understand, impact, or lead anyone without at a very basic level acknowledging someone.

To acknowledge means to take something in – to open one’s eyes to something else or another person.

During the 2016 Presidential Election cycle, both at the podiums and in pundit circles, there was no teaching the other side, influencing the other side, admiring the other side, understanding the other side, impacting the other side, or leading the other side because there was no acknowledgement of the other side. There was awareness – basically, that the other side was in the room – but there was no acknowledgement of the person’s valid or common points.

This political example aside, there is a certain percentage of attention available within us which we all have to pay. If you either spend it all in a mix of pushing your agenda or ripping down theirs, there is no energy left to acknowledge them and what they’re actually going through. You, as a one-man or woman judge, trial, and jury, have already made your assumptions and convicted them.

To try to be this empathetic in the face of attacks is a tough challenge to take on, but we need to put pride, fear, and ego aside as it’s in everyone’s best interest to try to do so. This is proaction instead of merely reaction. We can’t fall victim to the same old approaches that haven’t been working.

Related: To Move Forward, Answer This: Are You Taking The Proactive or Reactive Path In Life?

It is a lesson from mediation. In essence, acknowledge the other side has a stake in the game too and that there are similarities which both sides must have in common – some very basic needs, even – for the common endeavor or environment that’s drawn you together to thrive and be successful. Bernie Sanders demonstrated this with a Trump supporter. It takes an ability to put your own insecurities aside and it takes a lot of practice.

Acknowledgment from your end can demonstrate that you are lowering that guard, which can trigger the same dropping of defenses on the other side.`

Coming at each other, pushing only the ideas which are furthest from each other, yelling and stomping as if that will help make the case clearer, does no good.

Both leadership and professionalism are about understanding that there is a greater good everyone is trying to reach for the group, organization, or country. Differences may exist on the avenues used to reach those destinations, but it’s best to look for commonalities before clamoring about differences.

Related: Coaching & Mediation: Cousins Continuously Realizing & Harnessing Value

If the example you have before you of your group railing against another has lacked this type of acknowledgement, as best as possible and for the sake and energy of all involved, try to determine where in the discourse the best moment exists to introduce an sense of acknowledgement of the other side, their needs, and your commonalities.

Will it always play out in the same fashion or have the same effect? Absolutely not, in all honesty. We can’t be so naive to think so. Ego and pride will get in the way most of the time.

But, depending on how serious you are about reaching a resolution to the situation and avoiding the escalation of tensions, and what kind of example you want to set for others, it’s definitely worth a try.

So…What About You?

  • How do you try to get to or suggest the middle ground?
  • How do you foster a give-and-take environment?
  • Do you realize what is forfeited when no one concedes any part in a disagreement?

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