In our brittle political climate, relationships can break as easily as a Thanksgiving Turkey wishbone. Generational viewpoints can amplify misunderstandings. For example, Millennials who have deeply held views on climate change may clash with Boomers, who seek more moderate solutions. Our most elderly may understand why the prefix “trans” appears before the word “gender,” but may have difficulty accepting the use of a plural pronoun when referring to a transgender person. Relationships are precious, so here are a few tips to help us hold on to them while acknowledging divergent views:
- “Opposite” does not have to turn into oppositional. Opposite means that two people in a relationship hold contradictory opinions. “Opposite” morphs into oppositional when two people deploy defend and attack tactics.
- When differences surface, remember that you’re engaging with someone not to change his or her opinion but to relearn the beauty of a good intellectual give-and-take and clarify your ideas. That’s what two very close friends and Supreme Court colleagues, the liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the late Antonin Scalia did. They recognized that each made the other better because of their opposite judicial philosophies.
- Stretch yourself further and identify one aspect of the opposite position that you believe has merit and explain why you believe it does to the other person.
- Assume the person with opposite views has good intentions. Extend the “benefit of the doubt” instead of the “detriment of the doubt” that has become our immediate reflex. Have more curiosity and less judgment. When you learn why a person holds particular views, you’ll understand the influences that have shaped his or her opinions even if you don’t agree with them.
Close relationships are irreplaceable. We can regain our appreciation for difference without compromising our values, and that’s something for which to be very grateful this Thanksgiving.
To learn more about enriching generational relationships, please read my new book, Connecting Generations: Bridging the Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial Divide.