1-2-3: The CFP Digest: How talking to foes moves you closer together

In this edition...1 question, 2 quotes, and 3 opinions on the friction of life, talking to foes, and impostor syndrome


1 Question, 2 Quotes, 3 Opinions 

Welcome to the Collaborate for Purpose (CFP) Digest. In each issue, we comment on 1 big question. To learn more about the dialogues, click here.

Below, you’ll see a question followed by an event invitation to attend a ‘kitchen table’ dialogue event with a small group of people. The dialogues are engaging conversations where everyone shares their views and stories.


1 Question

What's your relationship with social media and misinformation?

To attend the next “kitchen table” dialogue about this big question, click here to learn more about the next online event on Sunday, September 20th at 1:30 PM ET.

2 Quotes

i.

Mark Twain on alternative facts

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

― Mark Twain, writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer

ii.

George Orwell on truth

“In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

— George Orwell, novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic


3 Opinions

i.

Life is better with the right amount of friction

By Flavian DeLima

Photo by Jon Flobrant

Friction is useful and necessary when you get the balance right.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines friction as the rubbing of one body against another. We know the right amount of friction allows machines to produce optimal results. The same is true of life - whether in the real-world or on the Internet. When friction happens with people of opposing views, they move closer together or further apart.

Herbert Edward in his 1916 book, The Power of Mental Demand, writes about friction. Figuratively and metaphorically, he says, friction applies to life for individuals and for our social relationships. He says it is very important to avoid hurtful friction. For machines, the worst type of friction is sabotage, where a person intentionally tries to destroy a machine. In life, Herbert says hurtful friction happens when we similarly speak with anger, malice, and hate towards others. Fear, fret, and irritability are also part of it and can quickly wear you out if you don’t get in front of it.

Keeping your cool

Herbert talks about the importance of managing the friction in your life saying,

”The average person could increase their mental power 30 percent by the elimination of such friction."

I wonder what Herbert would say about the overdose of friction on the Internet and in real life today. He offers simple tips with an understanding that keeping your cool is of utmost importance.

"Never answer on the impulse of the moment, nor decide on a course of action while in an irritated mood. If necessary, lay the matter under consideration aside and take it up 24 hours later when a good night's sleep and a calmer state of the faculties will enable you to see the matter in a different and a truer light, and to handle it more wisely and effectively. When you're tempted to take exceptions and irritated over what seems to be an injustice or is unsatisfactory in any sense, put yourself in the other person's place and consider from his or her point of view. To be just, requires reason and thought."

Besides having empathy, Herbert says the most important factor is to get right with yourself first. Then focus on others because it’s impossible for your friction not to affect others if you are stuck.

Herbert couldn’t have predicted the amount of misinformation, and rage that divides so many today. But his words of advice ring true today. It’s worth remembering the importance he places on self-accountability and self-awareness:

"The control and direction of ourselves is two-thirds of the victory in controlling and influencing others". 

Be like Driveway Guy

A homeowner in Salt Lake City got annoyed because every night he’d get an alert on his home security camera facing his driveway. In his own words, a kid kept “tearing it up” on the flat concrete. Like most homeowners, he initially got annoyed. But he didn’t rush to conclusions. Pretty soon, the driveway guy looked forward to the alerts and the video footage. His wife gave him advice that kept him up most of the night. Besides inspiring the kid and his neighbors, Driveway Guy inspired himself saying,

 "What transpired turned into the best part of an otherwise dreary pandemic summer."

My dad used to say, “Do your level best" every time his kids wanted to quit on people and stuff. I’m sure he and Herbert would agree that you gotta do your level best to collect your thoughts, manage your emotions, crack jokes, and laugh, and be slower to judge others.

How do you handle friction today?

If you enjoy engaging and diverse dialogue, join a future conversation event here or sign up for the newsletter for future events.

— Source: Law, Herbert E. (1916). The Power of Mental Demand and Other Essays


ii.

How to become friends with your foes

By Flavian DeLima

It is possible to start as enemies and become friends. It takes longer and requires more effort and patience.  

Photo by Clay Banks

It has gotten easier to meet people online or in-person that you disagree with vehemently. It’s also gotten easier to block them. Running into lies and bullshit has always existed but the Internet and social media put everything on steroids.  Sadly, I can count on two hands the number of people I unfriended, unfollowed, or blocked on social media this year. I got tired and frustrated with the online bickering.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is a big problem today. It’s the tendency to seek information (and people) that confirm our world view while avoiding and ignoring everything else. Police officers who build a case around a suspect for expedience follow confirmation bias. This happened with The Central Park Five case in 1989.

The Backfire Effect

Another bias is the backfire effect, which explains why people don't change their minds. The backfire effect causes people who are presented with evidence that challenges their beliefs to reject the evidence outright. Instead of changing, they "double down" and their beliefs become even stronger. Psychologist David McRaney in his book, You Are Now Less Dumb, says the backfire effect is the reason conspiracy theories get started and gain traction. In 2011, after the Obama administration released the president's long-form birth certificate, the birthers became even more emboldened in their beliefs and gathered online to mock it.

Confirmation bias and the backfire effect are both cognitive biases. Both lead to poor choices, bad judgments, and incorrect insights and conclusions. Both explain why we are attracted to silos and bubbles on the Internet and why we don’t change. It’s easy and convenient when everyone agrees and shares our beliefs.

You are not welcome here

In June 1991, in Omaha, Nebraska, Rabbi Michael Weisser got an anonymous call. The voice on the other end, said,

“You will be sorry you ever moved into 5810 Randolph Street, Jew boy.”

Two days later, his wife, Julie Weisser opened a package addressed to her husband with a note that read, 

“The KKK is watching you, scum.”

The package was filled with brochures and flyers claiming the Holocaust was a lie and that America's problems were because of Jews. 

The Weissers discovered from the police the culprit was Larry Trapp. He was a Nazi and the grand dragon of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan responsible for the state of Nebraska. His goal was to intimidate people of color and Jews and recruit members to make Nebraska a Klan stronghold with as much hate as Florida and North Carolina. In a 1992 interview with Time Magazine, Larry said,

"I spent a lot of money and went out my way to instill fear."

Inciting fear and violence

The police warned the couple that Larry was dangerous even though he is a diabetic and confined to a wheelchair. They were instructed to take their kids to school using different routes. Larry stockpiled machine guns and automatic weapons. He threatened a local Vietnamese refugee assistance centre and had members burn it at night. He called the NAACP leader and hollered racial slurs and hate speech. Despite paying fines and doing time in jail, he continued to incite violence and hatred. In August, two months after leaving the package for the Weissers, Larry started a white supremacist local public TV show.  

Talking to the enemy

Michael was disgusted after watching one of the episodes and decided to call Larry and leave messages on his answering machine. Instead of yelling and making threats, Michael left short messages he called “love notes” asking questions like:

“Why do you hate me? You don’t even know me, so how can you hate me?” ... “Larry, do you know the very first laws that Hitler’s Nazis passed were against people like yourself who had no legs?… Do you realize you would have been among the first to die under Hitler? Why do you love Nazis so much?” ... “Larry, there’s a lot of love out there. You’re not getting any of it. Don’t you want some?”

Larry got angry after Michael’s many “disturbing messages”. Finally, after Michael called again, Larry asked, "Why the fuck are you harassing me? Stop harassing me! What do you want?"

At his wife's suggestion, Michael chose kindness and asked Larry if he needed help getting groceries or anything else because his legs had been amputated due to complications with diabetes. After a long pause, Larry said,

"That's nice of you, but I've got that covered. Thanks anyway. But don't call this number anymore."

Change comes slow

Inch by inch, other small acts of kindness opened Larry’s eyes. One of his former nurses sent him a letter explaining the concept of Christian love. A Vietnamese woman helped him get onto the elevator because he was almost blind. On November 12, Larry stopped his TV show. He now blamed the US government and wanted equal rights for everyone.

Later that same week, Larry called Michael, saying,

"I want to get out, but I don't know how." 

Michael and Julie visited Larry's home and brought food. Larry handed them his swastika and rings to take away.  They talked for hours and ate dinner. On November 16, 1991, Larry formally resigned from the Klu Klux Klan and started writing apology letters to people he had harassed.

On June 5th, 1992, Larry converted to Judaism at Michael's synagogue — the same building he targetted bombing that summer. His friendship with Michael and Julie grew deeper. When Larry’s health failed, they took him into their home and Julie stopped working to care for him. About nine months after quitting the Klan, Larry died in their home with Julie and Michael by his side.

Larry’s Transformation

Larry’s transformation happened slowly through acts of kindness. Through conversations, questions, and self-reflection, nobody forced Larry to change. He changed himself. He also changed his community by resigning from the Klan, apologizing to those he hurt, converting to Judaism, helping police go after the Klan, and shared his story in the media.

Socrates said people do not knowingly desire bad things. (Trolls are exempt and more on them in the future). Individuals make decisions based on the current information they have. Who will you speak, listen, and learn from who holds different views from you?

Photo by Tim Mossholder

If you enjoy engaging and diverse dialogue, join a future conversation event here or sign up for the newsletter for future events.

Sources:

Watterson, Kathryn (2012) Not by the sword: how a cantor and his family transformed a klansman.

Levy/Lincoln, Daniel S. (Feb. 17, 1992) Time Magazine, The Cantor and the Klansman: WEISSER, TRAPP


iii.

I Have Impostor Syndrome

Re: July 26, 2020 event: How do you handle impostor syndrome?

By Maria Pham

I don’t know how I became the person that I am. Every day, I question myself as to why I haven’t achieved happiness. I was raised to be loving and caring. I was told to live my life how I wanted. I wasn’t given expectations. If I failed, I wouldn’t be punished. I was free to be who I wanted to be as long as my family and friends were happy and proud. Yet, I’m unhappy. 

I once believed my calling in life was to make people happy.  All I wanted was to be loved, trusted, and relied on by others. The thought of putting myself first above others sounded nonsensensical and selfish. If I could make a single person happy, I would be pleased. It’s not for personal gain or to feel good about myself. I do it because I love helping, listening and supporting family, friends and colleagues and even strangers. Their happiness was my happiness or so I thought.

I’m not important or special. I’m average. Whatever my accomplishments, I felt I didn’t deserve them even though I worked hard to achieve them. Anyone could replace me. What gave me the right to be here? I struggle to show my sad, vulnerable and broken side to others. Instead, I create a persona of what I think is the happy version of myself. It’s easy to put on a mask with a smile and always be cautious of the moment when I’ll be called out as a fake.

For years, I wondered if there was a term for what I experienced. A YouTuber finally opened my eyes when they said they have Imposter Syndrome. I researched it and found my answer:

I, Maria Pham, have Imposter Syndrome. 

Coincidentally, a friend invited me to join an online conversation event, called “How do you handle impostor syndrome”. For two hours, they openly and deeply discuss a hard topic. Topics range from social justice and racism to self-improvement and how to manage change.  Surprisingly, the next event was on imposter syndrome.

I attended only to learn and get tips on how to deal with it. I wasn’t alone. Others experienced it. People shared personal stories and knowledge — each expressing personal struggles and how they handled it. In listening, I saw the light and felt the weight on my shoulders disappear.  A part of me told myself to shut up, while my other side spoke up. I thought no one would care about my story and experiences. They all listened, asked questions, and encouraged me. I felt safe. I felt like I could take off my mask and be my true self in front of them because they accepted me. 

Sharing your story is the first step to coping with imposter syndrome. Taking this one step seemed impossible, but I did. This group of amazing individuals helped me gain more courage and confidence to continue my mental health journey and pursue being happier. 

To get past impostor syndrome, I need to stop comparing myself to friends, colleagues or family members due to the traumas I've faced in my life. There's no competition about who is better. I can’t win if I constantly compare. I plan to apply one tip I learned, which is “Don’t break the chain”. I’ll accept my small wins every day.

Artwork by Maria Pham


Contributors in this issue

— Maria Instagram

— Flavian TwitterInstagram, LinkedIn

The newsletter is published every 2-3 weeks excluding holiday periods. Special thanks to Maria Pham for sharing her piece. If you want to write a short opinion piece for the newsletter about a takeaway or action you took after attending an event, please contact Flavian or reply to the newsletter email.


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