Discover more from Gareth’s Newsletter
How Close Do Our Means Reflect The Ends We Seek?
Embracing leadership that positions us to leverage polarization as an opportunity to deepen connection
It’s easy to get distracted by polarizing themes. Race. Abortion. Guns. Foreign policy. And so many others. Many of us have well-founded beliefs where our direct experience prompts us to advocate for how we believe these issues should be best handled in our world. While outcomes matter, the quality of these outcomes is entangled with the process of how we approach making changes.
When we engage in conversations that activate our anger, defensiveness, or other heightened emotions, how we self-regulate our nervous system in those moments largely dictates whether we will react in a way that perpetuates the tension, or moves us deeper into connection. This is where self-awareness becomes essential. Self-awareness is not simply knowing our social roles, rather it’s also about being attuned and intimate with our own bodily sensations, our specific vulnerabilities, and maintaining a willingness towards feeling how others might be experiencing us.
Polarizing topics present in the collective space as social issues, whereas the source of these tensions is embedded within the unresolved tensions inside each of the individuals that make up our collective. When we experience triggering societal issues, we often feel called to action. The inner place from which we come as we step into that action is our opportunity to leverage the inherent tensions of polarization as a chance to embody our values more deeply, rather than allow the activation to govern us in reactivity.
Recently my friend Pip felt increased anger after a conversation with his dad about politics. At the time, Pip felt so angry that he reacted in a way that allowed that anger to control the tone and delivery of his perspective. While this approach might be valid, it’s not always effective. As Pip reflected, he began to see how he’d allowed the anger to catalyze him into a very self-righteous attitude. To do this reflecting, he had to shift away from the content of the discussion. He had to instead focus on regulating his nervous system and bringing himself back into centeredness. He had to bring the willingness of his values of connection, empathy, and generative dialogue to the forefront of priority before bringing back the political content. Pip worked to dissolve his self-righteousness, honor his anger in healthy outlets, understand his own subconscious shadows, and humble himself with the reckoning of how his anger-induced self-righteousness was edging him into hypocrisy.
The next time Pip encountered a political conversation with his dad, he was more prepared. Each time, thereafter, was able to stay increasingly present. While he still feels the reactivity of his righteousness, he can also slow down and listen to his father and prioritize their connection. This self-aware capacity has allowed Pip to see, feel, and understand his father in ways he never had before. It’s also allowed him to see how polarizing topics are critical to serving as guideposts for our own self-growth. Even more, it’s brought him the realization that if we lean into our own growth edge within the interaction, that these polarizing forces can generate emergent possibilities and solutions that never existed as each pole challenges the other in mutually expanding ways. These social issues transition from being reduced from right vs. wrong into a place of nuance, broader context, and realizations of how deeply humans struggle within the environments they are embedded.
Whether we’re engaging with the memetic battles happening in the digital space, the social tensions in our communities, estrangement from our families, or geopolitical unrest, if we can take responsibility for creating a space to relax enough to come back into a centered inner state, we can then show up to address critical issues from a connected and deeply humanistic place. Starting from such an embodied and self-aware approach, we’ll be able to address complex topics with an expanded dataset as we allow everyone we relate with to be seen, felt, heard, and recognized in their experience, regardless of whether we ever assume similar beliefs or not.
Effective leadership includes being equipped with pragmatic and informed information, yet if we can’t build bridges across divisions due to the rigidity of our own identity complex, we’re ultimately limited in how we can serve humanity. To embrace leadership that positions us to leverage polarization as an opportunity to deepen connection, we must reckon with our own inner worlds and get radically honest as to how close our means reflect the ends we seek.
Explore How Liberated Leadership Serves Our Communities, Workplaces, and Ultimately Our Societal Transformation:
Thanks for reading Gareth’s Newsletter! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.