Opinion

Reframe Our Thinking, Reframe Our Actions

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Posted: Oct 11, 2018 12:01 AM
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Reframe Our Thinking, Reframe Our Actions

We have less than a month to go before the midterm elections, and my bet is that most of America will be glad when it is over -- no matter what the result.

Currently, Republicans control the House, the Senate and the presidency. Based on historical election patterns, the Democrats should pick up seats in both legislative bodies. However, recent legislative successes and a strong economy bode well for Republicans.

"While U.S. adults remain largely dissatisfied with the way the nation is being governed," Gallup noted in an article this past Monday, "their satisfaction is up 10 percentage points since last year, to 38 percent" (1,035 adults, Sept. 4 to 12, 95 percent, plus or minus 4 percentage points). As you might have guessed based on Republicans controlling House, Senate and the presidency: "This increase is exclusively attributable to further heightened positivity among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, whose satisfaction rose from 47 percent last year to 72 percent now. At the same time, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents' satisfaction is static at 10 percent."

Not surprising. Those in power are happy, those out of power not happy.

What is surprising is that, according to a Gallup article from Wednesday, most Americans want their political leaders to compromise.

"For years, Gallup has been asking Americans to place themselves on a 1 to 5 scale, anchored at one end with the idea that 'It is more important for political leaders to compromise in order to get things done' and anchored at the other end with 'It is more important for political leaders to stick to their beliefs even if little gets done.' Given these choices, Americans have consistently tilted toward the compromise end of the spectrum," wrote Frank Newport, Gallup's editor-in-chief. "In our most recent update, 22 percent of Americans chose the two points at the end of the scale representing sticking to principle, while 50 percent were at the compromise end of the scale."

The challenge is that those who are on the "stick to their beliefs" side of the spectrum are the ones who are most vocal on both sides of the political spectrum, and compromise is hard to reach when you are busy yelling at the other side.

The question that the majority (those who want compromise) might want to think about is this: How do we get about compromise? From my experience, I would say that the parties involved have to listen, learn and reach out to those on the other side. It helps if you start small and celebrate small wins before taking on giant issues that are emotionally and historically charged. It also helps when you remind yourself that the opposing party is also a person, probably with good intentions.

Too often, when we expect the worst from others, that is exactly what we get.

If, instead, we step back and remind ourselves that we are but a piece of the puzzle, then maybe we can begin to work together.

A study published in 2015 in "The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology" provides an antidote to our society's narcissistic focus:

"Collaboration, cooperation and coaction requires a diminished emphasis on the self and its interests and a shift to attending to the larger entities one is a part of (e.g., small groups, social collectives and humanity)," wrote the authors, Paul K. Piff, Pia Dietze, Matthew Feinberg, Daniel M. Stancato and Dacher Keltner. "Enhanced prosocial tendencies -- inclinations to share, care and assist -- further enable individuals to function more effectively within social collectives."

In other words, working together is beneficial.

If narcissistic behavior is predicated on an over-enhanced sense of self, then the question becomes: How does this focus shift from a large self to a small self? According to the study, "these effects will be driven by what we refer to as the 'small self' -- a relatively diminished sense of self (i.e., feeling one's being and goals to be less significant) vis-a-vis something deemed vaster than the individual," in other words "Awe."

But today, the something we see as bigger than ourselves is often a political party, racial, social or economic group rather than our nation as a whole. We need to reframe our thinking to reframe our actions.

In less than a month, the midterms will be over. It is my hope that the legislative winners will pause, reflect and attempt to reach across the aisle and lead the majority of Americans, regardless of their political party.