Compassionate Responses in a Socio-Political Climate of Fear and Division


In light of the recent presidential election, there are a lot of polarizing views right now regarding our socio-political climate and the state of the country…many of these may touch a nerve for you.

In light of the current climate of fear and division, consider a couple action steps…

  • Self-care: If you are spending a lot of time attending to the “news” and to social media right now, ask yourself “is what I’m reading helping me?” and “Are my responses helping others?”
  • Compassion: Reflect on how you are expressing your point of view, does it show compassion for the person who is behind the view that differs from yours? Compassion begins with listening well.
  • Pursue connection: Seek out safe people and share authentically about what you are feeling and ask for support – not for a cause but support for you as a person of value.

If, after scrolling your social media feeds, you feel whipped into a frenzy of frustration, anxiety, and fear – it might be time to turn off notifications and turn on the weather channel.

Walk away for a day – or longer. Reassure yourself that it’s ok to make time for self-care and to focus your attention to things that bring you life.

I’m a huge fan of people having a voice, freedom of speech, healthy debate, and speaking the truth! I’m also a big fan of experiments in change. As a recovering hater-of-change – I find that it feels more manageable (read: less scary and less commitment) to agree to the idea of an experiment.

What would happen if, during this current socio-political climate of fear and division, we stepped away from the points we want to make? What if we let go of our vice-grip on the issues as we understand them – set aside our important points and our strongly held convictions and our intention to help others see the light. What if, for one week or for one month, we stopped trying to help by making the case for something? And what if we led with a desire to understand the other person’s world and experience? To view the world through their eyes. To listen well. To define success as fully understanding those around us and their experiences.

I love that phrase: “It’s only ‘helping,’ if it [actually] helps.”

How do we impact lasting change? How can we help be a voice for those who need it and stand up for what is good and true? We do that first by listening and acting in compassion. We need to assess from our own point of view if we are actually helping. If the answer is no, then we might need to step back and listen some more.

During the past few days and weeks, I’ve witnessed countless individuals who are hurting, fearful, and feeling alone… feeling incredibly alone and disrespected as a human because their views differ from most in their circle.

In times of unrest, we encourage people who feel unsafe to reach out to friends who love them – even friends who love them and hold different political views – and share their internal dialogue and fears with others, in person, face-to-face, not just through text and social media. If you feel afraid and alone, it may feel risky but vulnerability is the quickest path to connection. When someone reaches out, we have a choice to respond with an empathetic desire to understand their hurt, fear, and loneliness, rather than with an insinuation that they are wrong to feel the way they do (or that they’re silly or irrational).

Here are some examples of how an empathic response might sound:

  • I want to understand what it feels like to be you in your world, with the experiences you’ve had. Do you feel comfortable sharing some of that with me?
  • What are you most afraid of?
  • What personal experiences have you had that are causing you to feel afraid or unsafe right now? I know that’s probably a difficult question, but would you be willing to share your biggest fear?
  • Is there anyone in your life who “gets” your experience? Who understands your fear?
  • Where do you feel safe?
  • I wonder what it feels like to be carrying the convictions you have? What events in your life have led to those strongly held convictions?
  • I bet it’s difficult to share such heart-felt convictions with me when you know that we disagree politically – I really appreciate your courage and willingness to be open and honest with me.

Times of unrest and uncertainty are great opportunities to open up streams of dialogue that can lead to strength and resilience in relationships and communities. Let’s not miss those opportunities in these days ahead!

Mindy Pierce, MA, LPC