Our governing leaders have had some significant difficulty working together lately.

It gets me to wondering: Why aren’t we doing better thinking and leading in the United States?

A simple explanation comes to mind. Good thinking and good leadership don’t happen when we operate from inside of a limited mindset, within a tightly closed box of ideas, within only one perspective, when we have to win at all cost. To take an extreme point of view on an issue, and not to be able to see the two or three sides of a problem — such narrow, reductive, boxed-in, political-party kind of thinking — it doesn’t usually solve problems.

Yesterday my cats started licking each other, then they began wrestling a bit. I told them to stop. That kind of thing — it always results in the end in some hind-leg kicking and some sharp-tooth biting. I don’t want a vet bill.

Whenever I find myself disagreeing with someone, having a conversation within my own mind about how messed up they are, having gotten myself upset over something they have said, done or not done, then I find a need right away to begin to calm myself down, to remind myself that they have reasons for what they have said or done. This must be done, in order for my brain to keep working well, and to keep me from biting them!

To think well we must calm down our revved up.

Calm, me calm, you calm — it  means we can actually have a safe conversation where we do something very needed in the midst of human discord. We can invite the conflict. We can have the conflict, instead of isolating, hiding, polarizing, running, in panic, and gushing it all out to someone else who can’t do anything about it. We can talk it out, instead of digging in and refusing to bend and wrecking the relationship.

Someone told me yesterday, “We have some differences.” I invited them to lunch, stayed calm, and over food we had the best conversation. They left feeling heard; me too. While we don’t think the same way on everything, we were reminded of how much we are alike on the really important things, and I am looking forward to working well together in the future.

If I can invite you to tell me how you really feel, and I can really listen, then perhaps you can invite me to talk a bit about how I really feel, and you can listen, which might result, in time, with some decent dialogue in which we actually understand each other and work out a solution.

We need in this country, our leaders and ourselves, to better learn the art of negotiation. Marriage, friendship, parenting, work teams, friendships — all social groups must negotiate differences to survive. They must sit at the table, left-wing and right, liberal and conservative, extroverted and introverted, emotional and rational, black and white, poor and rich, big and little, young and old, this and that, up and down, in and out and they must talk, listen, respond, listen, talk some more and come to an understanding.

My wife told me recently that she wanted to get away to a resort, relax together —  in Temecula.

“Temecula,” I fumed, “I never thought of that as a destination!”

We are going this week.


I want her to be happy, and if I can see the validity of her perspective, “We are working too much; Temecula is close; they have some nice places to stay; it will be warm,,” then I’ll have fun and get a much-needed rest too.

It helps, as we try to live together, to give ground a little. We meet the need of the other. It isn’t a win-lose we are looking if we are to keep liking each other. We are looking, in conflict, for a win-win, for a we-do-this-that-you-want and a little-bit-of-that-which-I-want. That’s good relating. That works; it makes people happy.

Our political issues need such an approach; otherwise, we are going to have too much kicking and biting.

Saving money is wise; so is spending  money when something needs to be bought.

All human beings need to see doctors; but medical care must be managed in ways affordable and fair.

The use of force is sometimes needed to stop evil; it is also often essential to lay down arms and find peaceful solutions.

Making sure everyone is responsible is good; and it is also good to care of those who can’t take care of themselves.

I could go on. Life is never simple. There will always be competing perspectives. But what we need to do is to calm down, dialogue more, listen more and really work on understanding each other. If we are to ever grow up, become mature, gain social ground, then we must learn to care for and even have affection for people we disagree with.

We must nuance our thinking more, understand competing points of view better and come to shared solutions that work, that help, that lead the way forward to getting along.

“They’re wrong!”  and “I’m mad” — that won’t get us to the right place.

It will just result in a big vet bill.

  1. Donna says:

    So true my friend. Thank you for helping me to get closer to this way of thinking and living. I promise to listen to you better. I’m sorry if I have hurt you along the way. Love you.

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