How are you feeling about the outcome of the referendum?
Fear, celebration, disbelief, shock, relief, anger and concern are some of the feelings I’ve heard over the last few days together with a common need for change.
I’ve been practicing NVC and sharing with others for some years now and it seems ever more crucial to be able to connect with people who have a different view from me. I want to find ways to relate in these situations that are more likely to lead to mutual understanding and connection and the possibility of meeting everyone’s needs.
Here are 5 ways of responding with Empathy to this new situation we find ourselves in. You may like to practice them too.
Acknowledge your own physical response
Was it shock, did you find your heart in your mouth as you found out on the morning of June 24th?
Is it fear of what’s coming next … maybe things are so hard right now, economically, trying to find work that is satisfying and pays a living wage and the fear that things are just going to get worse?
Is it disbelief? How did this happen when so many institutions and commentators were speaking for Remain, maybe the majority of your friends … does that question take you back into shock, which makes you hold your breath a little?
Are you in a place of overwhelm as you cannot imagine the chaos and the work that lies ahead to remove the UK from the EU, does it quite simply change everything that provides order in your world and right now the ground you stand on feels very shaky indeed?
Or if you were a Leave voter, do you have a certain relief, that you have a hunch that this is the best path for the country and you have a quiet settling inside you. Or are you euphoric, overjoyed that despite the leadership of both main parties your strong desire for autonomy and independence feels reassured by what you hope this vote can achieve.
Obviously you can see that I’m speaking to both Remain and Leave voters here, and empathy can involve speaking to a whole range of feelings, not just the painful ones. The important thing is to acknowledge the feeling to integrate it into your experience; and to avoid bitter divisions and blaming as we move forward after the vote, to find ways to speak across differences.
Engage – Add your voice.
Bring yourself more fully into questions around governance, even though part of you might so long ago have given up on even the hope of being represented in this system, so you’ve stepped away from engaging. When you consider what I’m suggesting here, to engage more fully, what response do you have? Is it fear about stepping into an arena that doesn’t quite feel safe for you, in which you don’t trust you will be heard? Is it weariness from having been there, done that, got burnt out …? Or is it a deep sense of strength knowing that now is the time to step fully into your voice and your power.
Most importantly, Speak to people who have differing views from yourself. Engage with the ‘enemy’, be that Nigel Farrage and his UKIP supporters, or with people who are upholding the overarching bureaucracies, wherever they are, that are so opaque and incomprehensible. Speak with empathy to your neighbour in his 70s who is so bewildered by the chaotic systems surrounding him, perhaps exasperated by the months and months of waiting for an operation in the NHS, and so deeply needs a sense of autonomy and a structure that feels manageable in his country that he voted Leave and he might vote UKIP. Listen for the deeper essence of what he says when he blames immigrants for his frustrations. If you are white, like me, this could be an important task you can do to tackle racist and zenophobic habits of blaming innocent people for the structures that are failing us all.
Add your voice for peace. Add your voice so that no one or no groups among us will get scared with this Brexit vote that the rest of us will abandon them. Let’s just say that this Brexit vote might bolster right wing approaches, add your voice so that no group becomes an acceptable target for hatred. We are still integrating the Orlando massacre which targeted the gay and lesbian community and Rabbi Michael Lerner’s call for Jews to stand with Muslims in the face of growing Islamophobia. By this I don’t mean adding your voice to groups of people who share the same views as you. I mean reaching out beyond your world.
The important thing here is how you take care of yourself as you do this. It’s possible to speak with people from different perspectives and not lose your ground, and the only way to do this is by employing empathy for yourself and empathy for the other person to humanise them even if you disagree with their perspective.
Bring empathy to every step of what comes next.
So if you, like I did, had a lurch in your stomach when you heard that Donald Trump hails Britain for ‘taking back their country’, you feel anger that Trump wants to use Brexit to add momentum to his campaign and a sense of powerlessness and fear about where we are headed, just acknowledge what’s going on for you and engage, keep adding your voice. Expressing your deep fear in response to views that provoke this in you would be so refreshing in the face of ingrained habits in the political arena which hang on trying to BE Right and Making the other person Wrong. More likely than not you will have an emotional response to whatever next comes out of the mouths of David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farrage, Donald Trump .. acknowledging this, I hope will avert more despair, stuckness and paralysis.
Bring empathy to every step of what comes next. The practice of empathising with or humanising the ‘enemy’ is no easy task, and you need to ..
Seek out writers and political commentators whose voices brings you hope and clarity, whether that’s Yanis Varoufakis, Naomi Klein, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Miki Kashtan, George Monbiot or Russell Brand to name a tiny few.
Nourish yourself with meditation, connection to nature, mindfulness or whatever you choose, so you can stay present to the task ahead for social justice, inclusion and people-centred governance.
This Brexit vote changes everything and also changes nothing. We are still faced with the monumental task of changing consumer and industrial habits to avert climate change, we are still faced with a system that reverts to force and violence to make things happen and to make people conform to what is happening. Find your allies, people you can work with, people who it is a joy to be around, people who support your growth to become stronger and have a more powerful voice.
Think about connection in an empowered and inclusive way … of course, connecting to those who you have a natural and easy alignment with but also to those who are saying things that are painful to hear or that you think are dangerous for the world.
Finding ways to connect with those who are different to us, could save us from future tragedies.
Every connection matters.
This blogpost was written by Ceri Buckmaster – NVC sharer, CNVC trainer candidate. You can discover more about Ceri’s work here. www.ceribuckmaster.co.uk