Building Bridges to Heal the Nation

11/16/2016 11:46 am ET
Photo by Flickr.com

This year’s presidential election wrought enormous upheaval across the nation, and many Americans find themselves stunned by the continuing political unrest. A week after the results were announced, the United States is still wracked by harrowing division, and vitriolic debate that had outlasted the polling booth. Some view this as a systemic correction, an aberration, and a reason for uncertainty about our nation’s future.

It’s important to remember that no one can divide us without our consent. We cannot let one person create a divide in our nation.

Regardless of which of the four candidates we supported, we have a collective responsibility to address our differences and rebuild the national dialogue around values of empathy, understanding, and acceptance. If you're at a loss for how to respond to recent national events, keep these three insights in mind.

  1. Empathy. Empathy is having the capacity to understand what another human being is experiencing from their perspective. In this time of uncertainty, we as members of a diverse population must recognize the right to experience various emotions evoked by this result. Fear, victory, shock, uncertainty, hope, and anger are all legitimate responses, and we must acknowledge the variety of responses, and reactions; showing maturity to those with whom we disagree. Instead of criticising someone else’s views, remember to listen as they would like to be heard - not you.
  2. Have an Open Heart. Love your neighbors. Welcome them. Listen to their stories with an open heart. If someone you know is feeling particularly distraught or overwhelmed by the election, let them know that you are willing to listen to their feelings and support them no matter what. This is a time for compassion. Do not forget that whether or not you voted differently than someone else, we can unite in our efforts towards a kinder, more inclusive dialogue.
  3. Stand Up For One Another. Whether the people around you share your views or not, we all have the right to a safe place where we can express our concerns and hopes. The election's aftermath has included violent backlash towards minority groups, but we can affect proactive change in our nation by protecting one another and speaking out against acts of hatred. Walking someone who feels unsafe to their car, sitting with someone who feels isolated, or politely but firmly asking your peers to stop making unkind remarks are crucial steps we can all take towards a safer, more compassionate society.

No side is blameless in this tempestuous period in US history, but we all must set aside our differences and recognize the dire imperative for empathy. We as a nation cannot continue to be torn apart by the currents of discord, and should therefore seek ways to unite with grace. From the Civil War to the Great Depression, the United States has undergone numerous times of trial, and has always emerged stronger. Let this election season be one more example of our capacity to unify in the name of brotherhood and compassion.

Sharon Schweitzer and Amanda Alden co-wrote this article. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, is the resident etiquette expert for CBS KEYE We Are Austin, popular on-air contributor, regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, Inc., The New York Times, The Vancouver Sun, and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, named to Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2015.

Amanda Alden is a cross-cultural communications intern with Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is currently a senior at St. Edward’s University, majoring in Global Studies with concentrations in Europe and International Business, and minoring in French. Feel free to connect with Amanda at https://www.linkedin.com/in/amandamalden

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