One thing that seems to be lost this election season is the ability to disagree without becoming disagreeable. Often, instead of conversing, we shout our opinions at the top of our lungs, with barely a pause to allow the other side to shout theirs back at us. So, many of us do what seems to be the only sensible thing we can think of: we stop talking about anything that seems controversial.
We avoid giving offense to friends and colleagues by, well, avoiding altogether.

As a communication professional, I wonder if there is any other way? A different path, one that might have different results? As I scan our database of resources searching for the magic answer, I encounter collaborative problem solving (CPS).

Could this be the solution to surviving our election cycle?

CPS is an approach designed to help parties with widely differing opinions and approaches find a solution everyone can live with. At the heart, it is a process that encourages inquiry instead of advocacy (asking questions to understand instead of trying to persuade), strong listening skills that reduce emotionally charged scenarios, and creativity in problem solving.

The problem with avoiding is that it results in less investment in the outcome- we nurse our wounds, instead of coming together to support each other. It also produces less optimal outcomes since the ‘interests’ of each party are not fully identified, so they can’t fully be addressed by the solution.

So I have begun to use the questions “why do you feel that way?”, and “tell me what’s most important to you here” as the way into the murky uncharted waters of controversy. Before I can share my own thoughts, I seek to understand my partner’s approach. Maybe this approach allows us to be much more sensitive, and hopefully emerge with our relationships intact.

Please vote on November 8th – it’s one of the most important responsibilities of citizenship, and the best way to use your voice to create change!