Three Little Words

How many times have we heard from our 24/7 news coverage in recent months that we live in a polarized society? Our global political climate seems to be raging, we are solidly entrenched in what we see as “right” and “wrong,”  and only have conversations with people who feel the same way we do.  We’re in our own silo of information -listening to our own echoes.


Finding middle ground on some of the topics and issues might seem pretty impossible, but finding our way to civil conversation isn’t.  If we allow ourselves to see things differently (we don’t have to agree… we just have to see…) we’ll go from “right” and “wrong” to “yeah, but…”


We all see things from our own “database” of history, education, personal experience and needs, and moving from that comfort zone is a little threatening; it asks that we incorporate other data bases.  That movement might begin, however, with what Wharton Professor and New York Times contributor Adam Grant offers to model constructive conflict: “Argue like you’re right; listen like you’re wrong.”


That model can begin with three little words: “Tell me more.”


Just saying “tell me more” lets our “opponent” know we respect them, are willing to see things differently, and want to unify on the issue – even if we stay separate in our positions.   It can slow the rhetoric, cool the temperature of the dialogue and provide an active safe zone for the conversation.   That’s when we cease trying to prepare our answers and retorts, and truly begin to hear, understand and soften.   We begin to empathize.


John Kennedy’s Secretary of State Dean Rusk tells us “The best way to persuade people is with your ears…”  Leaning into that persuasion could begin with “tell me more.”

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“When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it--always.” – Ghandi