A third way

Ever heard of the term “Positive Regard?” It is the notion that those who disagree with you are nonetheless operating from a place of positive intent. In other words, they mean well, but the just don’t agree with you. They might think you are a commie socialist, or a free market racist, but it isn’t personal. They are afraid, and they feel they must defend what they know in order to protect what they have.

Indulging your adversaries the notion of positive regard allows you to hear arguments that are difficult and emotional with compassion and appreciation for the legitimate fears that we all harbor in our chests. The unemployed tradesman says, “Send all the illegals back where they came from!” The hybrid driving mom says, “Stop drilling now!” These are hardened positions that don’t reflect compromise, and they both represent people who mean well, and are scared for the future.

How do you teach understanding? How do you teach people to view their most loathsome political adversaries with positive regard. Imagine you are the former governor of Alaska, just a small town girl from Wasilla. Imagine you are a WTO protestor and you have just thrown a brick through a Starbuck’s window. Imagine you are a farmer, and the only crop you can grow is industrial corn. We all find ways to justify the life we live, and there is usually a grain (or a kernel) of truth in our justifications.

So where do we look to learn positive regard? What do we do to move away from stagnant oppositional defiance? Who are our national heroes of compromise and understanding? I’m not talking about sacrificing principles. I’m talking about strapping on the other person’s shoes and viewing the world from the path they walk.

There are a few teachers out there, my favorite being the goofy, annoying Morgan Spurlock -professional pollyanna.

We could all use 30 days in someone else’s shoes. Whose shoes would you wear? Who would you like to see in yours?


10 Responses to A third way

  1. I was going to say Angelina Jolie’s but then I remembered that she has about forty-eight children. Plus, I don’t really wear shoes.
    (Sorry for being flip- I know you are talking about something very serious here and more people should be discussing this very thing.)

  2. I think we need to find you a Dallas real estate agent with high heels, makeup, pantyhose, and a hair-do to trade with. On weekends she spends her time blogging for the Tea Party and researching the president’s birth records.

  3. There are those of us who are, by nature, agents of change, and those who are appointed keepers of the gate. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. We want in to start breaking down and rebuilding and they want to guard and maintain the status quo. I don’t think there’s any way to really grasp the duties we each feel without “being” that person for awhile. Those who vote against their self-interest in favor of gatekeeping are perhaps the hardest for me to understand; is it that they don’t understand their own situation or is there something I’m not understanding? For starters, I’d like to walk in the shoes of each of my sisters and brothers.

  4. “Those who vote against their self-interest in favor of gatekeeping”

    Like coal workers who fight to keep the jobs that exploit them and the land?

  5. I’ve always, naively believed people act with positive regard. Even when they are insulting, they mean well, they are hoping to improve the world, the situation, you.

    It is satisfying to look past the flaws of the individuals around us, enjoy the side of them that brings a new prospective. It is certainly more rewarding than busting balls all the time.

    How do we teach understanding? By example.

    On Thursday nights beginner ride at Forest Meadows we did a lap around Lake Overstreet. As a lone rider, coming from the opposite direction, approached I said hello. He said, “yea right, fuck off”. There was no obvious intrusion of his space. I would like to walk in his shoes so I could kill myself, as long as I could come back to my own anti fungal powered pair.

  6. This is truly an inspiring notion and one that I need to strive hard to practice. There are people in my life with whom I can see this being useful but there are plenty of others that I have little hope of understanding or of being understood by. The problem is the overwhelming abundance of lies. There are the few that know that what they are … See Moresaying is a lie yet still perpetuate it, these are the truly unreachable for they believe in the larger agenda of socialism even at the cost of their own freedom. These are the people that I don’t even want to understand for fear of somehow being infected by their disease. The rest that I have little hope for are the ones who have simply been fed the lies and who have never put forth the effort to formulate their own opinion or to see any other point of view than the one they have been told they should have. These people are not free thinkers, they are sheep. Why do I want to try so hard to see another person’s point of view when they can’t even articulate why they believe what they do? These are the people I feel sorry for, they are the mass victims of decades of brainwashing. As an afterthought, why is it that those who know the least know it the loudest??

  7. “These are the people that I don’t even want to understand for fear of somehow being infected by their disease.”

    And yet there they are, in your life, equally fearing your disease. So what happens next?