Remember that time….when I went to my Company’s annual team meeting, sat down at a table to eat dinner with three great colleagues, and we broke all the rules?
I believe it was my Dad who first told me: Never talk politics or religion with people you work with. But it is the unwritten rule, right? Kind of goes right along with not ever discussing your salary. But let me say that I nearly always retreat from talking about politics – (particularly in places I don’t consider “safe” spaces) – at parties, at family dinners, with friends. I’m the one that will shove an entire cookie in my mouth and run the other direction.
Well, the other night, I learned a whole lot by NOT running away from talking about difficult or controversial things, and was also reminded that I work with the finest, smartest, most compassionate, amazing people in the world. Yes, the world. It all started with a sticky note, as we were supposed to write down some things about ourselves (the “ice breaker”) – which sometimes is kind of goofy, but again, with really smart people it’s kind of amazing. The sticker in question was: “I am an activist”. The conversation started from there.
I could also call this: “Three democrats and a republican” – or “Three women and a white guy” – or even “Three liberals and a conservative walk into a bar…” so you get the gist.
The four of us who had a seat at the table together (Mara, Margaret, Chris and myself) are colleagues, but also ( I would say) friends. There is definitely trust among us, and I believe the coolest thing to be part of was how we could rationally discuss our differences, and how Chris could articulate his thoughts reasonably, and yet also listen to the three of us share our deepest concerns, and empathize, and also freely admit he did not agree with everything our current President stands for. It was comforting and amazing that we could have this open dialogue, without yelling, without criticizing each other, and without any hard feelings at the end of the night. And he was not intimidated in the least by us. And we are strong, opinionated women. No dishes were thrown. No one got up and left. Even when my friend Margaret pointedly said: “I love you Chris, but your privilege is showing.”
We also (of course) talked about our kids – How Chris had a “biter” (younger kids) – and I had a new driver (my older kid) – and everything in between. So naturally, it morphed into a conversation about religion too…because, why not.
I am so grateful. Grateful for the conversation, grateful for the whole dialog restoring my faith in people and humanity and goodness. Because we can talk, and maybe more importantly, we can listen, and we can dig down deep and see all points of view. Though I won’t always agree, I didn’t feel angry or despairing about it this time. I felt hopeful. Thank you Mara, Margaret, and Chris. Cheers, and let’s do it again soon. We definitely don’t need the sticky notes.