Trump and tolerance, Part 3 – the dance

By Reade Brower | Nov 02, 2017

Two weeks of trying to understand the Trump supporter has changed me – in a good way.

To summarize; respect is the cornerstone of tolerance and the stepping-off stone is listening without judgment.

Reminding myself that unsolicited advice is criticism, unless asked for an opinion, giving one is merely another way we listen to ourselves talk.

I thought I got a free pass, at least when writing an opinion column that is stated as such. I continue to see it that way, but with a twist; keeping an open mind that the goal is to get people talking, not to convince anyone that you have the answer.

Lately, I am asking more questions; most of them begin with “why.” I am not rolling my eyes (even out of view) and the notion of “are you kidding” or “what planet are you from” is slowly dissipating while trying to become a more curious mind.

I was interviewed twice last week for different things and tried to be a student; recognizing that someone’s genuine curiosity in the story is more appealing than someone trying to steer the story or be part of the story.

Since “Trump Supporters Revealed” came out, I have continued to dialogue with one of Trump’s biggest supporters in the Midcoast; it is heart-warming when you realize that bashing the other side is nowhere near as fun or productive as talking with the other side. Wanting to know what they think is more important in moving conversation than asking someone to defend themselves. Asking questions like "why" gets you to a place where you not only respect their opinion, but you get to theorize on how they got there.

But the biggest thing I learned is that they become people; the Trump supporters I communicated with one-on-one through email are different from the ones I read on my Facebook page who, from both sides, were negative and uninspiring.

What moves the bar is conversation that leads to compromise; it is easier to compromise when you understand the other person’s feelings (not their position on the issue, but how they got there). Allowing and understanding that all of us want to be heard; one can realize that it is less about being right than it is about being heard.

Starting with yourself, look at what you say, but also how you say it.

I had an interesting experience with a young runner friend who happens to also be a reporter. After a run, we went for a beer and a burger; I asked her opinion on an incident that involved a seasoned reporter whom I did not know personally, but had engaged in a discussion regarding behavior, not reporting.

That conversation took place through email and didn’t go well. My point was to ask the reporter to consider feelings and back story when promoting a point of view; I then shared the back story as I knew it.

My intent was to let the reporter know that I was writing as a citizen, not the owner of the newspaper, and that they had done nothing wrong, but, knowing the back story might give them compassion, rather than ridicule.

The response was, in my opinion, defensive and accusatory; a couple of exchanges back and forth did not change anything.

The end.

That is, until my conversation with my running buddy. Our after-run conversation started as a general philosophical one and then moved to this earlier event, with me showing her the email exchange to get her take on it.

The first sentence in; her mouth turned funny – the “OFF THE RECORD” in CAPS was a real turnoff, she said. A couple of paragraphs later, another grimace – “having fun at their expense”; yes, I would be angry, too, she asserted. And, on it went.

I thought about it on the ride home; though my intent had been only to point out the back story and ask for compassion, my “email tone” was indeed all wrong.

I went back and reread the entire email chain and then wrote a note to the reporter apologizing for the exchange four months earlier; explaining that, after talking with a colleague, my previous emails gave off a tone that I did not intend and I was sorry. I kept it simple, gave some followup info on what I was trying to communicate, doing my best to stay away from being defensive.

The response that followed later in the day was (paraphrasing) thank you for your note, I really appreciate it and (the best part) perhaps when I am in the area, we can get a beer together.

Sounds good to me.

“Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand.”

--- Emily Kimbrough, author and broadcaster (1899-1989)

Comments (1)
Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Nov 02, 2017 07:46

"Remember that foul words or blows in themselves are no outrage, but your judgment that they are so. So when any one makes you angry, know that it is your own thought that has angered you. Wherefore make it your endeavor not to let your impressions carry you away." -Epictetus

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