So much is happening. Our nation is divided over the outcome of
the election. Your ex-spouse has told your children you’re a liar
and a cheater. Your coworker has attacked you by pushing three
buttons of vulnerability: your competence (“Why can’t you do this
right?”), your intelligence (“Why can’t you understand how this
works?”), and your integrity (“Why didn’t you tell me this was
How do we heal? How do we repair all the damage? How do we recover
after so much acrimony?
President George H. W. Bush sends a congratulatory letter to Bill
Clinton, concluding with “Your success now is our country’s
success. I am rooting hard for you.” You admit to your children
you’ve made mistakes, you tell them you respect the other parent,
and you assure them that both you and the other parent love them.
And you resolve conflict with your coworker by doing 10 things.
The first seven have to do with adopting an effective persuasive
strategy. The last three have to do with being a good person.
1. You show empathy by trying to understand your opponent’s point
of view, particularly if that person’s life history, way of
thinking, or ethnic background differs from your own.
2. Following the precepts of Rogerian persuasion, you affirm the
validity of your opponent’s point of view before countering with
3. You acknowledge flaws in your own argument or performance.
4. You seek common ground rather than emphasize differences, and
you look for win-win solutions rather than for ways to defeat your
5. You “flip the script” by responding with “non-complementary
behavior,” as illustrated by a woman in a backyard gathering who
shows kindness to an armed assailant by offering that person a
glass a wine, resulting in the assailant sitting down and talking
with the group and even apologizing for trying to rob them.
6. You go beyond accepting change; you embrace it, without fear of
the future, even as you hold on to what you value in the past.
7. You think “counterfactually” by asking what-if questions to
reimagine your past as recommended by futurist and game designer
Jane McGonigal, thereby unleashing a “burst of creativity,”
lowering your stress, increasing your sense of control over the
present, and creating a heightened belief in the possibility of
transformational change in the future.
8. You cultivate qualities that make you a good person based on
the YMCA’s core values of respect, responsibility, honesty, and
caring, along with the related values of compassion, forgiveness,
generosity, and kindness – values that are embraced not only by
Christianity but also by all the world’s great religions.
9. You create trust by demonstrating those qualities, especially
by recognizing injustice, showing respect for others in both words
and actions, and treating both friends and foes fairly.
10. You demonstrate patience by not interrupting or contradicting
others as well as by recognizing that winning over your opponents
and building relationships take time.
Perhaps most important, you realize that healing doesn’t happen