Skip to main content

Here in the United States, we’re just days away from a presidential election. The last few weeks, months, and even years have been fraught, politicized, and polarized. With everyone yelling over each other, there’s not a lot of listening going on.

As I teach in the Guidance Approach to Parenting, effective communication is crucial to maintaining healthy relationships and creating a physically and emotionally safe environment.

We’re always going to come across people who we disagree with. Getting into a shouting match, battling it out over social media, or pretending people who think differently than you don’t exist aren’t productive ways to handle those disagreements.

Instead, we need to acknowledge our differences, engage with each other as human beings, and encourage open and respectful dialogue.

This video—yes, it’s an ad, but worth the watch—is a great example of what effective, compassionate communication can look like:

Next time you’re talking to someone with different views than yours (your toddler or your teenager maybe?), don’t judge. Don’t try to convince. Don’t even look for all the things you might have in common. Simply focus on the person sitting across from you. You don’t “win” the conversation by proving that your point of view is the right one. You win by making a genuine connection with another human being.

Really listening can be hard when someone else’s perspective is so different then your own. Staying out of judgment is key. Also seeing beliefs as an attempt to meet needs. Beliefs tie into our values and give us a way to explain and understand our lives. If we see everyone else’s beliefs are doing this for them too, shifting a belief could be a risk to belongingness with their tribe. A belief could tie directly back to a need for connection or understanding.

Successful dialogue doesn’t always mean you walk away being on the same side. Goodness knows we don’t always see eye to eye with our kids. It’s about showing up, connecting, and listening to what the other person has to say.