“When someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high."
Those are Michelle Obama’s words spoken during her speech at the Democratic National Convention. And it got me to thinking, what does it look like to “go high”?
I hear those words encouraging us to respond to name calling, insults, labeling, and other disconnecting communication by following the practice of Compassionate Communication and connecting to our values.
If someone calls me “stupid” for my opinions, I could say that they are “stupid” for their opinions. This lowers the discourse and contributes to what I want less of in the world: disrespect. This is going low.
Even though we may have been practicing NVC for a long time, when it comes to politics and other emotionally charged issues, we can react out of old habits like labeling and name calling.
So how can we respond so that our value for respect is met?
It might sound like, “When I hear people calling me ‘stupid, I feel angry and discouraged because I value respect. Would you be willing to talk about our ideas, rather than calling each other names?”
When we get beyond the name calling, then what?
After teaching Compassionate (Nonviolent) Communication for more than 16 years, I realize that my opinions, beliefs, and strategies are the result of the sum total of my life experiences. It’s the same for each of us. We are where we are because of where we’ve been, and we see life through that perspective.
When someone disagrees with me, I want to be curious about them and their life experiences, as well as share with them about my life experiences and how these experiences contribute to our opinions. Let’s listen to each other, share our stories, and look for ways to solve problems that are based on all that we have learned—hopefully creating strategies that are based on our shared wisdom.
Let’s figure it out together while respecting each other and “being the change” that we seek.