On Tuesday, the internet (and world) went crazy over a video from the Ellen Degeneres show where Ellen addresses different belief systems and friendship. Haven't watched it? Watch for yourself, plus, you might get a couple of laughs.
In the video, Ellen explains how she and her wife, Portia, got invited to watch a recent Cowboys game with some other high profile people. One of these people was the past U.S. president, George W. Bush.
The issue arose when social media, confused at seeing a liberal and conservative interacting cohesively and laughing, took to the online world to express their frustration. They didn't understand how someone who is married to another woman could be having a great time and interacting with someone who opposes gay marriage.
This is when Ellen spoke the words that America, and the rest of the world, needed to hear.
The United States is going through a cultural shift of polarization. We find ourselves thinking like one specific group of people and rejecting other ways of thinking. The more this becomes normalized, the harder it is to come together and find a middle ground.
While it is true that we would be much happier if everyone thought like us, the simple and hard reality is that is not possible. The best way to get someone to listen to your cause and ideas is actually to build a relationship with them so that they care. And this goes both ways!
Someone that thinks differently than you is not a bad person. She was brought up in a different environment with different values, and this is reflected in her present-day opinions.
Here's a quick exercise you can do next time you feel confused about someone's opinion: If you were raised in the same city, society, parents, school, and friends, how different would you be?
Want a tougher exercise? Seek out one or a few people that think differently than you. Maybe even someone you know personally and have had conflicts in the past. Ask them a few questions about their childhood or experience on the conflicting topic and notice if your opinion about them shifts.
And most importantly: the goal is not to change their opinion. The goal is to understand, show compassion, and build friendships with those that think different. Because as Ellen's principle shows us, it is possible!
Thank you for stopping by and reading this week's post. This topic is one I find equally interesting and challenging. I find myself having to take deep breaths when presented with an opposing view in order to calm down. If you do take on the exercises I wrote about, please share the outcome or any feedback! Taking the leap to understand someone is uncommon but rewarding. Looking forward to next week's topic and post!