208-376-1701 bryan@bryanyager.com

First a quote: Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so that we can have some conversation.” – Mark Twain

Hello and happy Monday.

How are you today? No, I mean really, how ARE you today?

If you asked that question of me while drafting this missive on a flight to Chicago, I might have told you a partial truth, something like “I’m terrific! How are you?”

Or, I may have been more transparent and vulnerable about what I was feeling on the inside, behind my outward smile.

I may have even said, “I’m deeply troubled by the behaviors I see in the world around me.” Perhaps, I might have had the courage to share my concerns about the increasing levels of incivility, and declining levels of respect and human decency between people seemingly everywhere. I may have lamented over our apparent inability, as mature adults, to have healthy and insightful conversations around conflicting viewpoints, perspectives, and beliefs.

It seems to be becoming increasingly difficult for people in our society to discuss and debate important topics without resorting to name calling, emotional outbursts, verbal attacks, or worse. I find myself pondering somewhat rhetorically, “Aren’t we smarter than all of this? Haven’t we learned anything from the past? Can’t we see where escalating levels of incivility, animosity, and outright hate will lead?”

I know I’m not the only person concerned about this potentially dangerous societal trend.  Within the last six weeks, I have had more than one inquiry about workshops focused on the topic of psychological safety in the workplace.

Last week, our local television station featured a news report about the recent trend of politicians “opting out” of public debate forums. The main point of their story seemed to be related to our country’s inability to discuss and debate important, yet difficult issues. It seems people are inclined to make enemies of everyone and anyone who has a different world perspective. As a result, more and more people are coping with anxiety, stress, and outright fear.

Frankly, I almost chose not to publish this article after hours of battling my personal discomfort surrounding this topic. How ‘bout you? Do you share my concerns, or I am the only one who feels like our inability to constructively discuss, explore, and debate viewpoints is unhealthy, if not downright dangerous to our society?

“Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” ― Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Now, a lefthand turn in topics. Even if we don’t see ourselves as part of this problem, I believe it will take all of us to be part of the solution.  Pointing our fingers at others and blaming “everyone else” is part of the problem we face. When we can only see the “correctness” of our own personal viewpoints and behaviors, we’re perpetuating the problem.

I might point out that if it were possible, no snowflake would likely feel responsible for an avalanche. And yet, when combined, all of those snowflakes can destroy anything in their path. That is what I see happening in our society; a post here, a comment there, a blogger here, a talk-show host there… all contributing to an avalanche of disrespect just waiting to slide down the mountain.

It doesn’t have to be that way, does it?

I don’t pretend to know how to solve the world’s problems or address what I see as a danger to the long-term health of our society, our country, and frankly, mankind.

All I know for certain is that I can make a difference in my little corner of the world. I can make the world a better place by focusing on myself first; with the people I love, lead, and influence.

I have always enjoyed a modified version of the “Serenity Prayer.” It goes like this: 

“God, please grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know
that one person… is me.” – unknown

Following are a few behaviors I’m going to focus on in the days and weeks ahead:

  • Practice Inquiry first, advocacy second. – Stephen R. Covey was correct, if you want to be understood, seek first to understand. If you want others to see “your truth,” it is wise to first seek and understand “their truth” from their perspective. There is almost always different perspectives and more than one version of the truth as we see it.


  • Listen to understand, not respond. – I encourage you to “catch yourself” arguing with someone else’s viewpoint in your mind before they have even finished their thought. (You may have even experienced yourself “arguing with me” in your head as you read this article.) Practice reflective listening techniques BEFORE expressing a different or contrasting thought or idea.
  • Seek to reduce defensiveness. – When people feel threatened, be it physically, verbally, or emotionally, they quickly construct metaphorical walls to protect themselves and their perspectives. Once those walls are built, constructive communication around those walls becomes extremely difficult. This dilemma becomes even more challenging if we have also built walls around our truths and perspectives.
  • Be curious. – I will strive to remain open to those who think differently than me. I will demonstrate curiosity as to how, and why others think, see, and perceive differently than me. I will work to understand and appreciate those who have had life experiences different than my own. Even if you don’t ever come to agree with an opposing viewpoint, you may still learn something from it.
  • Seek wisdom. – I believe wisdom is created and grown by learning from others, by looking at the world through “life lenses” that are different from my own. Wisdom seems to be created when we value, and consider, a wide range of perspectives
  • See “self-righteousness” as a potential red flag. – I have observed the more confident I am in the correctness of my viewpoints, the more blind I am to the insights of others and the less tolerant I am of contrasting viewpoints. I don’t know about you, but As my level of resistance increases there seems to be a higher probability of poor behavior on my part.
  • Be open to being influenced by others. – There seems to be a correlation between a person’s level of influence and their openness to being influenced by others. Intolerant people tend to perpetuate intolerance.
  • Be a positive role model. – Leaders are always on stage, even when not on stage. People are watching your behavior and looking for congruence between what you do and what you say.

Those are a few of my thoughts on this topic. What do you think? What can others learn from your experience and observations? As always, I welcome your insights, opinions, and reactions to this missive.

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How will you live, love, or lead, differently, or better, this week?

Bryan Yager

“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”

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Bonus Quotes:

  • “You don’t have to completely understand people to make them feel completely understood.” – Dr. Mardy
  • “Always remain objective by continuously studying more and more on what you believe is “true” to discover the actual “truth.” – Tim Han
  • “When you stand in front of me and look at me, what do you know of the griefs that are in me and what do I know of yours?” – Franz Kafka
  • “How can you expect a man who’s warm to understand one who’s cold?” – Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  • “A great challenge of life is knowing enough to think you are right, but not knowing enough to know you are wrong.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” – Harper Lee
  • “A very dangerous state of mind: thinking one understands.” – Paul Valery