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Ideological bigotry: Are you part of the problem?

The solution: Stop preaching to your choir and reach out to the other side.

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Abraham Lincoln's famous 1858 speech emphasized "a house divided against itself cannot stand." These words come to mind as I ponder the excess divisiveness so prevalent in America today.

We are building silos of ideologies, isolating ourselves into factions, and preaching to our choirs about the faults and defects of "the other." Each silo is suffering from "groupthink" – reinforcing its own dogma and avoiding any feedback that disagrees with the party line. At its worst, it is ideological bigotry.

This subtle form of bigotry is being promoted by extremists who compete for attention. Unless it's held in check, it could tear our nation's social fabric. We've seen that happen in other countries, where ugly rhetoric eventually turns to violence.

But we don't have to stand for it. And each of us can make a difference in our circles of influence with a simple yet profound rule for everyday communication: stop opposing what we don't like, and start proposing what we would like.

Shocking e-mails from friends

I get e-mails every week from liberal friends and conservative friends – some calling themselves libertarians, some progressives – that shock me with their vitriol and the mean-spirited nature of their commentaries. In lieu of their own compositions, some of these friends forward content that drips with sarcasm and dismissive characterizations of people with whom they disagree.

There is nothing wrong or unhealthy with contention, debate, and even argument – as long as it is in the context of respect and relationship with the other person.

Successful people realize the benefits of open discussion and debate. It often improves the outcome as both sides come to see value in the other's position. Throughout my career in business, I witnessed meetings where passionate debate rattled the walls of the boardroom but the result was a far better idea, design, or product. The superior outcome was celebrated by all.


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