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Shifting the Political Dialogue to Create Change

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 19/02/2016 Larry Shushansky

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Many of us are fed up with politics, disillusioned with government, and don't trust our elected officials. We begrudgingly accept that money, power, and connections are what run our government. We believe that politicians are corrupt and the government doesn't work for the people.
We also feel too small and powerless to change the current system without realizing each of us is responsible for perpetuating that system. And how? By replicating the way the politicians act. We listen to politicians tell half-truths and outright lies, twisting conversations to benefit themselves and attack other candidates. We listen to debates where politicians tell constituents what they want to hear and vie for power and prestige as opposed to doing what's best for the common good.
We watch politicians fight and argue about demagogical issues, use sound bites to win elections, and attack their opponents instead of supporting viable changes for the good of all people.
Unfortunately, we follow suit and do exactly the same thing when we are talking politics. People engage in political conversations with friends and family and get overly worked up using the same techniques as politicians. We perpetuate the system of politics we do not believe in, by emulating exactly what we don't like as we too speak in half-truths and tell outright lies.
We twist conversations to benefit our viewpoint. We're more about being right than listening to what others are saying. We parrot sound bites without really thinking ideas through, using what others say as fuel for attack and self-righteousness. We get behind candidates because of their ideological rhetoric.
The way to really affect true political change is to be independent enough to act differently than our politicians do. What's missing in politics today is decent, fair, and respectful conversation instead of accusations, attacks, and anger. Our political dialogue is filled with rumors and innuendos, trying to win a disagreement rather than learning from it. If you don't think this is true, try listening to two people talk... one supporting Ted Cruz, the other Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Or, let's really give it a go and pretend you're listening to a conversation between a Bernie Sanders supporter and a Mark Rubio advocate! If you believe this conversation will be civil and respectful... think again.
But how, you might ask, will changing a conversation by shifting the tone and focus of the political dialogue that I am having in my living room, office, or kitchen change our current system of government? Because our government is just that, a system. A system made up of millions of people who are each a part of the larger political system. What is true about any system is that it changes when the individual components act independently enough from the other members of that system.
This is true whether it be a family system or a political system. When you're independent enough to change the way you interact with other parts of that system, you begin to create change. And one significant way to change the interactions within the system is to change the way you talk.
Try it in your own life. Take an argument, you have had with a spouse, a close friend, a co-worker, or a family member that seems to be going nowhere except to be increasing the tension and frustration between the two of you. Now, change the dialogue the next time you get together. Try listening and acknowledging what the other person is saying. Try staying open to their point of view, which may have some validity. Try being more respectful. Acknowledge their point of view in a meaningful way while expressing and keeping to your point of view. Be independent enough to stay strong... don't drop what you believe to be right. Simply present it in a different way. Just because two parties disagree doesn't mean anyone has to be wrong. Two diametrically opposing views can exist at the same time.
If you do try this you will be amazed how instantaneous change will be. It will be palpable and you will experience a shift in your relationship. If you keep up the changes you've made, your relationship will keep up as well.
Now, it's unrealistic to think that if we change the way we interact with one other person -- who is also a tiny part of millions of other people--that change in our government will happen overnight. However, the more we act like our corrupt or misguided leaders, the more our system of government stays the same. That is, the more we engage one another in a mean-spirited, competitive, and angry way, the more we perpetuate business as usual.
The sooner we become independent enough -- learning to be strong, standing by what we know is right for ourselves in a way that also listens to others and is respectful--the sooner we will have the government we truly want.

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