Linda Lewis Griffith

How to mend fences after a divisive presidential election

TNS

There’s lots of talk about healing in the wake of last week’s contentious election. Disappointed voters are forced to accept the fact that their candidate didn’t win. Certain House Republicans need to swallow their pride and join forces with the party’s new leadership.

Healing is the process of overlooking specific transgressions and recommitting to the higher value that once defined the whole. It implicitly states, “Yes, I know that this event happened. I don’t like it any more than you do. But our reason for being together is greater than this ugly moment. I want us to survive.”

The act of mending fences extends far beyond the realm of politics. It’s a behavior required from any group of people who have a disagreement. Churches must reconnect if there’s been an unpopular financial decision. Companies must rebuild when they’ve lost consumer trust. Divorcing couples must forge new, workable relationships in order to successfully co-parent their kids.

Healing is a unilateral process, requiring both parties to step up to the peace treaty plate. Each must be equally committed to a positive outcome. Even a hint of underlying hostility eventually dooms the proceedings to failure.

Healing can’t be rushed. It takes an appropriate amount of time for each faction to process their emotions, then be willing to move ahead.

At the same time, it’s imperative to keep the ultimate goal of the group in mind and not do or say anything that will further the divide. A sincere statement such as, “I’m really disappointed about what has happened. I don’t want to talk about it right now. But I’m still your mother. We’ll get through this. We always have,” sets the stage for reconciliation.

It’s equally important to extend the olive branch ASAP. Harboring resentment for excessive periods of time prolongs bad blood and causes unnecessary angst for all involved.

Linda Lewis Griffith’s column is special to The Tribune. She is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit www.lindalewisgriffith.com.

How to begin the healing process

▪  Reach out to the offending party. Don’t let negative emotions simmer. Be the first one to take positive steps.

▪  Use conciliatory language. Avoid blaming or otherwise demeaning language. Never, ever gloat. Instead, be gracious, kind and constructive.

▪  Praise your opponent. Set your differences aside. Publicly state what you admire about the other person.

▪  Express remorse. Share your sadness that this unpleasant situation happened. Your tone will encourage the other party to follow suit.

▪  Find common ground. Perhaps you hail from the same family, mosque, company or country. That bond is greater than the current conflict.

▪  Express your desire to recover. Make it clear you want things to get better. Lay out your personal plan to make that happen.

▪  Don’t bring up the past. Old, painful memories remind the group of a challenging, unhappy time. Allow them to move far into the background.

▪  Chart a new course. Just because you’ve healed and moved on doesn’t mean you accept the status quo. Look for ways to do things better while still honoring the integrity of the group.

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