Won’t you be my neighbor? 
(Yes, even though we voted differently)

In the US, we just experienced one of the more intense presidential elections in our lifetime. You might be feeling celebratory or you might be feeling defeated. You might be ready to move on.

What can we learn about ourselves? Which issues did we feel most strongly about? How did we view the opposition? Did we think the issues the opposition felt strongly about didn’t matter compared to ours? Did we slip into judgement?

The voting system in the US is - usually - binary. You vote the Democrat or Republican ticket. A binary voting system simplifies the process. The problem with it is that we tend to group everyone as “you’re with me or against me”. As an example, Republicans mighty think Democrats care too much about universal healthcare while Democrats might think Republicans care too much about their 401K. 

All or nothing type of thinking doesn’t apply well when considering how complex we are as human beings. The truth is, we can care about BOTH issues -  universal healthcare and our 401Ks. And another truth is that we have more in common than our differences.

Optimism. Stability. Charity. Gratitude. Peace. Leadership. Ethics. Ambition. Teamwork. Resilience. Relationships. Success. These are just a few of the many values that we can probably find in ourselves and admire in our friends, loved ones and neighbors. When you are scratching your head trying to figure out why your neighbor voted one way, take a look at the value underneath the issues. Having a strong 401K means that a person might value security. Caring about universal healthcare means a person might value ethics. And since we are complex human beings, we are capable of admiring both security and ethics - and many more values. 

And as complex human beings, we are adaptable, resilient and capable of change. We do really great work when we decide to look at our commonalities rather than our differences. So, the next time you find yourself getting heated due to political differences - ask yourself, what is the underlying value that we can agree on? Maybe it’s kindness. Since you can probably get onboard with that it will be easier to validate the other’s viewpoint around the value even though you don’t agree. Focusing on our common values will go a long way to bridging gaps that have felt too wide for too long.

Jenny Elledge is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in couples counseling, sexual issues, faith and life transitions, mixed-faith relationships and parenting issues. She is well-versed in working with entrepreneurs and telecommuters and the intersection of work/home balance. Additionally, she assists those with anxiety, depression, ADHD, PTSD and trauma work. She offers both therapy and coaching services in-office and online for couples, adults, older children and teenagers.

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