Living in Manhattan, I confess I don't know a single person who says he or she voted for Donald Trump. I consider New York City one of the most diverse places on Earth and I like diversity. But politically, in this last election, I lived in a bubble.
People around here thought Trump and his supporters were crazy to think they had a chance. Or maybe quaint.
It's incredible how blindsided they were. Now, weeks later, the people around here still don't get how blind they were. Bring up Trump's name, and most people around here call him names, especially "narcissistic."
No one seems to want to understand him, his motivations, or his supporters and their motivations.
They don't want to accept that many people prefer him. They seem to think everyone who voted for him is crazy or stupid. Since more than 50% of white women voted for him, they have trouble calling him sexist any more.
But they aren't trying to understand him or them. Why not at least try?
I haven't met anyone who is trying to understand the situation--why so many people voted for him and against Hillary Clinton. They're trying to figure out how to survive four to eight years of someone they don't respect, or explaining it, but they aren't trying to understand or empathize these motivations they don't like.
Where's the empathy?
As a leadership coach and teacher, I've found empathy one of the most valuable skills in leading others. Leading doesn't only mean using your authority to compel someone to do what you want. It also means working as a team, at least to me.
Sometimes decisions don't go your way. Most Clinton supporters I meet seem petulant, in denial, or in some other way unaccepting of the results.
It's funny how people who value empathy in other contexts seem so repulsed by the idea of trying to empathize with Trump or his supporters. Well, anyone can empathize with someone like them. I wouldn't call it empathizing to find someone like you and conclude that they feel like you.
My view of leadership means acting with empathy and compassion, even when it's uncomfortable. I didn't see many people doing it.
Taking responsibility for change
I realized that if I didn't act to learn about others firsthand, I couldn't call myself any more empathetic than those weren't trying. Besides, I've always found the skill helpful and bridging this divide would help me develop the skill.
So I want to take responsibility for practicing understanding people I don't understand. I think it will improve my life--and, to a tiny degree, the nation.
I confess I'm disappointed in Clinton supporters not trying to empathize or understand the other side, but without acting or even trying, I couldn't claim to be doing much more.
In all fairness, I don't think if Clinton had won that Trump supporters would be seeking Clinton supporters out either.
So if you're a Trump supporter interested in bridging the gap too, let's talk.