Scientifically Informed Solutions for a Politically Divided Country

I have been meditating on the scientific research on the average liberal and conservative.

Liberals score much higher on openness to experience.

Conservatives score much higher on conscientiousness (which includes grit — and all the baggage this new sensational term carries).

What does this say about working together?

It is insufficient to find common ground, which is where media and intellectual pundits end the conversation.

Instead, explore their why — the underlying principles behind their values — and their how — the strengths and resources that will help them work toward their goals.

Forget idealism. A simple request. What if we appreciate each other’s differences and tap into complementary styles for greater creative potential? This would help us solve real problems and work toward an aspirational future. Because what matters is not the election but the future we actively weave.

To begin.

  1. Reflect on your biases. For instance, do you use the same level of evidence to challenge world affairs, ideas, and articles that support your belief system as you do for world affairs, ideas, and articles that challenge your belief system? Probably not. You argue more like a lawyer than a scientist — no different than most opinionated humans.
  2. Practice empathy and perspective taking skills. By spending more time in conversations that are not face-to-face, your skills have atrophied. Not unlike the 3 weeks of winter vacation when you gave up on a strong set of core muscles for hot chocolate, whiskey, and marathon sessions of black mirror under a thick, wool sweater. Get in the habit of choosing a single moment per day when you are confronted by someone who doesn’t look like you, think like you, or pursue the same interests as you. Listen, ask open-ended questions, take an interest, and resist the temptation to forcefully persuade them. Every once in awhile, choose to be persuadable instead of persuasive. You will become smarter and stronger over time.

What the world needs now is people willing to bridge the gaps and intentionally play in the adjacent possible.

Dr. Todd B. Kashdan is a public speaker, psychologist, professor of psychology and senior scientist at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University. For more:

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