Political and ideological differences are about much more than who you voted for.
Problems in communication that stem from differences in political orientations and ideologies can be especially tough. When people feel judged or threatened, they often retreat further into their own corner. This can make working together in any cooperative sense exceedingly difficult.
In our current moment, the challenges to bridging some of these divides can appear insurmountable. In the workplace, this can create a climate of self-censorship, hostility, or resentment.
Within families, it can make certain conversations feel impossible because it feels like a shared understanding is elusive and common ground is a fleeting fantasy.
My goal isn't to change people's political opinions. I work to bring everyone to the table to where disagreement is more comfortable. I do this in the workplace in a manner similar to the way I do it in the classroom, by introducing concepts that provide a shared language for talking across differences and by talking through the shared premises that have to be in place in order for this to work.
Why Does This Matter?
When communication breaks down along political lines, it can feel difficult to repair. And if left untouched, it can have concrete effects on businesses, organizational and workplace culture, and on families. To be clear, "political lines" is not limited to arguments over which candidate each supported in the last election. That example is simply one of many differences that stems from a different worldview, different way of understanding right and wrong, and different sense of fairness.
When people feel judged and misunderstood, distance creeps in. That distance means common ground and, therefore, teamwork, problem-solving, and a general sense that all ships are points in the same direction with shared goals is a challenge.
To provide a simple example of how this plays out albeit in an academic setting, my back-of-the-envelope review of the University of Illinois' bias response team reports found that approximately half of the reports in the 2015-2016 year, one third in the 2016-2017 year, and slightly under half (45%) in 2017-2018 year fell into the category of either a complaint about an area of active controversy or the reporting of an incident where multiple interpretations were possible.