93% of Americans say they hate the division in our country.
Let that sink in… while we cannot agree on much, we are in near unanimous agreement that we should learn to get along. Americans are exhausted by the toxicity of our culture and hungry for something new.
We are NOT talking about differences here. As human beings, we will always have differences in our beliefs, experiences, ideas, opinions, and perspectives. What we are referring to here is division—the break-down in norms in how we treat each other. Contempt is the new norm. The irony is that even though we all hate it, we are addicted to it and cannot seem to let it go. As a result, we have lost sight of the things we have in common, and no one is influencing anyone anymore.
What's more, it is showing up in every corner of our culture, including work. From a leadership perspective, this represents an existential threat. It also represents an unprecedented opportunity. See The Great Attrition.
What is contempt?
Contempt is anger plus disgust. It is to devalue another human being and consider them beneath your regard. It is to see someone as subhuman, not worthy of your respect. The fruit of contempt is disrespect. The problem with tolerating contempt is it is an emotion that feeds off itself. It consumes us mentally and emotionally. It is like a cancer that erodes trust (self-trust and trust in others), makes us intolerant of others, and eats away at our relationships.
The antidote is love and empathy.
We don’t talk about love much in corporate cultures. That needs to change. As a society we have forgotten how to love our neighbor well. Love is the antidote to contempt because contempt is starved of its energy when love is present.
Love is a choice. It is unconditional. To love another person is to see them as having inherent worth, without regard to their ideology or ability to do something for us in return. There is a reason we list “always treats others with respect” as one of the 12 Behaviors of an Actively Engaged Person. The “always” means it is unconditional. Implicit in this expected behavior is the idea that ALL human beings have inherent value and are worthy of our respect. Respect and love are inseparable.
Empathy is understanding others. It comes through active listening and asking open-ended questions. It is through understanding each other that we discover the things we have in common.
Empathy is the bridge to building healthy relationships and is a crucial ingredient for conflict to be healthy. It cuts through all our assumptions about others and helps us to see each other as human beings.
Empathy does not mean we will agree with each other, nor does it mean making excuses for bad behavior. But It does create space for people to be heard and understood, and thus feel valued. It creates the right conditions for us to find common ground and respectfully disagree on differences.
Foundational to Team Trek teaching is the principle of 100% Responsibility. It simply means that I am 100% Responsible for how I choose to respond to what happens to me and how I interact with the world around me. It is the stubborn refusal to let who I am be conditioned on my circumstances or how someone else is treating me. Unconditional love and 100% Responsibility are two sides of the same coin.
It is tempting to look at what is going on in our culture and feel powerless. However, we are never powerless. Each of us is part of the problem and the solution. What we do matters, and each of us has the power to influence what is going on around us. Being a positive influence starts with taking ownership for my actions and reactions and committing to be the right person no matter what. This kind of influence is contagious.
What would happen in your sphere of influence if you took 100% Responsibility to love your neighbor well regardless of the circumstances? To practice empathy and treat others with respect regardless of differences? How would your influence grow?
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