Keeping it real simple

This blog is called Everyday Leadership.  Obama is Obama.  Trump is Trump.  And you and I can choose to be everyday leaders.  324,707,000 people reside here.  It’s pretty wonderful and pretty crazy that as 1 out of 324,707,000 each of us feels entitled to have our voice matter in this representative democracy.  Doesn’t it seem humbling, on the one hand, or grandiose on the other, that we should think we would get our country our way :-).   It’s amazing and so cool that each of us is .0000000000324707 of the population, yet we care so deeply.

As I wrote last week on the day before the election, I believe we have an auto-immune condition. Our country is warring against itself.  That is hardly any different today.  (Clearly, it is different that Trump, not Obama, is soon to be the head of this body politic, but the body is no less divided.)

I offer a strategy to do your part– as that 1 out of 320,707,000 — to make both “America great again” AND  show we are “stronger together.”  It’s a strategy for work, family or your ongoing civic conversations:

  1. Throw away your boxes and listen.  Silence the urge to reply and listen more.  It’s a great discipline to build every relationship you are in, and it’s HARD.  I’ll bet at least 90% of those reading this, are already reading to see if they agree or disagree, deciding which box to put me in — the right box or the wrong box?   Indeed, you may be leaning: “I like (or hate) where Mulhern is heading.” But forget that.  Try to wonder and not know just yet. Don’t need to drop me in the “true” box (i.e., “I agree with Mulhern”) or the “false” box (i.e., “I don’t agree with Mulhern!”)
  2. Here’s what happens when we box people:  When many Republicans read me, they grossly misunderstand me, inferring things I would never imply. After a sentence, they think, I’ve heard this (a thousand times) and are ready to argue.  I wish they’d just ask questions, rather than prove they are right.
  3. Let me HASTEN to add:  I make the same mistake with them (and, news flash! with many of my liberal friends), as I quickly see their thoughts as challenges to my ideas/identity, and think I have to prove them wrong (at least in my head).  Why can’t I just try to fully understand them?  For what THEY think?  For their views?  Why?  This is not rhetorical!  Why do we feel we have to prove them wrong, us right?  A more personal example:
  4. Jennifer and I had a rare and voluble and painful disagreement on our 30th anniversary trip in Venice.  Why did Jennifer have to be right or wrong (i.e., agree with me or not)? Why couldn’t we just listen and understand (as we did the next day when we had cooled off).  When a co-worker has a different view, why can’t you learn more about them and what they see and how they think?  Why does your teenager who is pushing back have to be wrong?  After all, we live in an INCREDIBLY complex, non-black-and-white outer world, and our inner worlds almost ALWAYS display mixed feelings.  So, why must we straight-jacket the world into binary choices, right-wrong, smart-stupid, feminist-sexist, enlightened-ignorant, etc.?  If we listen, we might hear their ambivalence, their subtlety, and we might also hear their fear or their compassion or their guilt — thus finding out that they are not terrible or cruel people, but passionate, as we are. And we might hear our own mixed feelings and subtler thoughts and be able to LEARN both about ourselves and about them.
  5. One more word about listening to the music, the emotions (and not just the lyrics, the words).  On the level of emotions, many people were really AFRAID of what Trump was saying.  AND on an emotional level many other people were really AFRAID that the left didn’t care about their struggles and pains and yes, their morals.  (I know, some will put me in the box marked “false equivalency.”)  But there IS an equivalency of EMOTION — of people feeling overlooked, threatened, marginalized, unprotected – whether they are white or black, gay or straight, etc.
  6. And maybe, just maybe if we listen so that people feel understood, we can forge out of this potential nightmare, a vision of a  better America.  This may seem impossible.  If you voted Clinton, you may not feel like your 1 out of 324,707,000 counts.  If that scares you.  I’d say:  Make it count!  By listening, as much as by, speaking.  By making your corner of America a little smarter, more tolerant, and more caring.
  7. If “we” had won, I think the advice would have b een the same:  Listen to

Lead with your best self.

P.S.  Ron Colone, a good friend, wrote a wonderfully inspiring reflection the day after the election. I recommend it.

  • A good start would be to ASK people what their motive is when they espouse an opinion. Right now, both sides have decided to INFER a motive. I think we often have similar motives, but we think different methods will work to achieve the end result. Even if we have different motives, we should listen to WHY that is.

    Problem is, I can’t hear anyone else when I’m shouting.

  • I think the hardest part of this election is that everyone “feels” their responses. While emotions drive many of the things that we do, I think that it would do us well to be less offended, less reactionary, and more thoughtful. I have friends who want to protest and believe whole heartedly that this administration is “out to get them”. They also feel that if you voted for or support Trump at all, you are racist and the mile of other names they have associated to republicans or conservatives. These are people that have been my friends, I have been in their weddings, been excited about their children, been an ear or a shoulder to cry on and all of the sudden I am the enemy. The problem is that I am still the same person that I’ve always been. I haven’t changed my views, my dreams, or my friends. I don’t typically post a lot of political things on social media because I think that it is a breeding ground for discord. I did however comment that as friends we have disagreed before and I hope we get the opportunity to disagree again because it means we are still friends.

  • Dan, I love your commentaries and simply wish that most people felt the way you do. I remain in prayer for America and the world as well as our leaders but the out and out blatant hatred and injustice for people of color or those that are different breaks my heart. How did we get to the place where the US has a president that calls names and bullies others? Is this what we want our kids to see? We now have a country where kids are afraid that their parents could be deported, where a wall could be built and separate families and the black community continues to fear our family members being brutalized and not returning home. It feels like we are going backwards and the lynching will continue in one form or another.

    • Val,
      I hear you! How DID we get here? What was it about the way we communicated that was obvious to us did not lead us to victory?
      Jon’s comment in this thread suggests we didn’t hear. For him, there were genuine policy issues at stake. But “we” tended to say, “oh, that’s a smokescreen for racism.” I am now painting the “we” with a very broad brush. But if “we” are going to win in TWO years, we better learn from this on every level.
      And we need to ask things like, “Don’t you want us to provide everyone with health care?” And really listen.
      They might say, “Government isn’t good at providing anything.” And we might say, “okay, let’s come back to that, but would you mind answering my question, “Do you want us to provide everyone with health care?”” So often we just talk past each other.
      This is hard. We’ve gotten addicted to 140-word tweets. But democracy isn’t about clever comebacks. It’s hard work.
      I SO APPRECIATE that you’re standing in the difficult middle, broken hearted, confused, still committed to core beliefs, and willing to make the effort to listen!!!

  • Good Morning Dan,
    Is it wrong to say I can’t call Donald Trump my president? He’s racist, a sex predator, he is a bully.
    And I feel that we did win, the people voted for Hillary-the popular vote.
    I do understand what you say-and I’m going to make a pledge to listen/keep on speaking. P

    Lead with your best self, too, Dan. 🙂

    • Patricia,
      Your point is very well made. Less than personal attraction, I feel personal repulsion, when it comes to this man. AND he is my and our President, elected through a system, built in law, in which we all play a small part. Acknowledging that he is President and that you are a citizen who is deeply opposed to him means that you should do YOUR job better than he does his. Listen to your fellow citizens, to your president, and use all the appropriate channels available to SPEAK your point of view.

  • Dan,
    A very thoughtful piece: well done.
    Didn’t one or your revolutionary heroes [Nathanial Henry] once say”Give me Liberty or give me death!”, but he also said “My country right or wrong”. Seems in all the mudslinging the “My country” bit has been forgotten. If all US citizens worked together just think how great & strong you could be.
    I write this as a foreign observer & your cousin. I can share your pain but I can also share the pain of those who felt “screwed by the system”, that’s why we voted for “Brexit”!
    It’s time our “elected Representatives” reflected all their constituents’ views and not just those with the deepest pockets.
    No matter what group you belong to, you might be pleasantly surprised that “the others” have similar aspirations to yours: we all want a better life and a fair share and to be treated with respect.
    Love to the family,,

  • A great quote by Chuck Norris, “A lot of times people look at the negative side of what they feel they can’t do. I always look on the positive side of what I can do.”

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