Overcoming Differences

Thomas Lawson, CEO
Friday 24th June 2016

I voted to remain.  It’s something about which I felt very strongly.  This morning, I feel very sad.  I’m not going to say why, because you will have heard or read all of the reasons over the last few weeks; just as you’ll have heard or read all of the reasons why it was better to leave Europe.  There will be a majority of people in the UK who will feel great about this morning’s outcome.  It may feel to all of us that there is now a big divide.

This may be doubly true for young people – the vast majority of whom, over three quarters, voted to remain. Many are understandably expressing their anger about how this decision will have an impact for a greater proportion of their lives than for those who voted to leave.

About two weeks ago, I was watching the news feed on my social media and wrote this:

'Reflecting on the EU Referendum I've been thinking how tribal it feels. Two camps broadcasting our arguments at each other. I'm clearly in one camp and I can tell because there is only pro-European stuff on my Facebook feed.'

It reminds me of posts about 'un-friending' people with different views: 'Here's my opinion. Agree with it or it's over between us.'

I think that if I want someone to hear what I think, I have to engage with people from other 'tribes' with an open pair of ears and an open mind. And really listen. Hard.

Then, maybe, they might ask me what I think.  And, I need to be open to the possibility that I might find real value in what they have to tell me about what they think and believe.

There are people who I love and respect who I know voted to leave.  And the reason I’m close to them is that we share so many of the same beliefs: on this issue we believed differently, but on most, we feel and think similarly.  If we focus on what we share, first, before we focus on our differences, we’ll find it easier and build better more resilient relationships.

In our work with young people in conflict with one another, the differences they focus on can feel insurmountable.  Sometimes they feel so severely that it can result in extreme violence.  Through our work we see young people manage to overcome those differences, build wonderful friendships and go on to lead other young people to value differences.

For those of us who voted to remain, it may feel Herculean, when we’re feeling so sore, to invest time and effort with people who didn’t, but if we put the first foot forwards, we have a chance to be a more united nation, even if it’s not a united Europe.

So, now, I’m going to find the swiftest way I can to make peace with this reality and find the opportunities that will emerge from the change.  Change always brings opportunities.


Overcoming Differences13

Thanks for this Tom. I too voted remain and have friends with a wide variety of views, some of those closest to me voted to leave. Ultimately we wanted the same outcomes, but had different views on how to get there. I have listened to people on both sides - and in most cases people feel that the 'others' are wrong, misguided, ignorant... it's a very complex and difficult situation, and as you said now is the time more than ever for listening and understanding different viewpoints, and for finding our common ground. And for finding the positive opportunities


Tom I agree with your comment that with change comes opportunity and as always I admire your vision. As someone who voted to leave I believe it is now time for us to collectively work together on creating a new and bright future for everyone, including our friends in the EU David

Overcoming Differences13

I really appreciate and agree with this reminder about us all having a role to play in helping to overcome the divide that Brexit and the campaign leading up to is has created in our country. I also think it's 'Herculean' in the least: having been out on the streets campaigning with #GreenerIn I've met so many people that were impenetrable in their views about migrants being the fault of everything-gone-wrong and despite all my mediation skills I found it disheartening to see how little impact my conversations made there. But right until Referendum Day I also met many people that hadn't made up their minds yet, that were open to and looking for other people's views and I had great conversations - but there weren't enough of us there to have these conversations! That's where some of my disappointment and weariness lies: much as millions of people now express their shock about the outcome, we've all known it was going to be a tight vote - so why didn't more people get involved with the campaign? And who is willing now to get out on the streets and engage with people on the other side, help re-building the bridges we've hastily burnt? I worry that too many people hide behind the comfort of social media - a twitter message here, a Facebook post there - out of fear of the direct face to face conversation. And fear doesn't get us anywhere as we've just seen. If we want a different, a more united country that is guided by people power and not people fear then we all need to be willing to get out of our comfort zone - and once there it might be easier than many people think! I found campaigning for this year's referendum empowering, insightful and deeply gratifying - and an incredibly fun way to meet other likeminded people and feel part of something bigger...

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