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?