When you are most triggered, remember to Nuzzle

Did you know that Americans are more polarized than ever. A 2017 Pew Research report, found that across 10 political values that they have tracked since 1994, there is now an average 36-percentage-point gap between Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and Democrats and Democratic leaners. In 1994, it was only 15 points.

During challenging times like these, when the world seems more polarized than ever, we should remember to Nuzzle.

The Nuzzle, is that moment when we decide to lean in with love and appreciation when we feel most triggered.

It is precisely these moments when our compassion is most needed to help people grow in the direction of a brighter future for all involved.

Many of us are coming home from the holidays, spending time with family, people we love and whom we often disagree with.

I remember a heated dinner table conversation with my honorable father, who happens to be a staunch conservative. I felt my blood beginning to boil as we disagreed on various topics that range from immigration to economic policy, to my mom (who is no longer his wife).

In these moments, I feel the universe pulling me away from him…the last thing I want to do is be near him, acknowledge him, or love him.

But as I left the house for the airport that evening, the first thing I remembered to do was text him that I loved him and know he is a good person.

When I want to change someone’s mind, behavior, or way of thinking, I have been conditioned to do so through reason, data and discourse. While these things are vital, I do not feel they are sufficient or effective for the times we’re living in.

Think of “the backfire effect,” research shows that if we can provide information that disproves someone’s idea or way of thinking, it will only reaffirm their belief until you can achieve a threshold of 60 percent doubt.

Even when we I know in my heart of hearts that someone is wrong or cruel, my anger and ideas will only reaffirm their original belief if that is all I bring to the table.

The Nuzzle is a reminder for me to come back to compassion when I find myself most triggered. To find my center when an external force leads me astray…

Simply breathe, smile, embrace.

As my poet friend Max Stossel says:

“ at our most triggered, we have our greatest opportunity to look inwards.”

Ask yourself how you would like to be when you lose yourself in frustration and anger with someone. That question will always help you realign with your center.

And once you are there, you can enter into a more productive conversation…

1. Search for common ground, although you may disagree with them…your motivations are likely similar. Safety, security and freedom to pursue a good life.

When you can find that common ground, share it with them. Show them that you are not that different deep down, just in the manifestations of your strategy.

2. Seek to understand why they believe what they believe, trying to understand someone will always lead to deeper understanding and a more meaningful conversation.

3. If you love someone, if you care about someone…these challenging moments are precisely the moments that that love deserves to be given a voice. As a reminder of the grander forces and unity that exist between you.

4. Remember to express your ideas with conviction, while also realizing that they are not divine truths. Try to understand alternative viewpoints rather than merely expressing your own.

As the Dalai Lama said:

“when we speak, we are merely repeating what we already know. When we listen, we may learn something new.”

It is only when we acknowledge these connections that we provide people with a safe container to be brave and allow themselves to be “wrong,” to step into the uncertainty of questioning their own beliefs and ultimately change their behaviors.

So, next time you find yourself in an argument or a disagreement and you feel that pit your stomach, the clench in your teeth or the anger in your throat…

Remember the Nuzzle.

- Breathe, smile, embrace 
- Listen to what they have to say
- Seek to understand them
- Acknowledge common motivations
- Express appreciation for who they are as a person
- Express your ideas and opinions as personal beliefs, not divine truth.

The Nuzzle can help us learn to disagree with grace.

The world needs that right now.