My 40-year friend has fallen prey to painful sciatica (right after getting a new job that involves a lot of travel), so we haven’t spoken, but when we do, I think we plan to have the same kind of conversation about being color-blind that we had about taxes: one in which the goal is to understand each other and to identify points of agreement, which won’t be hard to do since obviously her goal is to treat people fairly and with kindness. In fact, I’m starting to think maybe we’ve been more cautious than we needed to be and that it has eroded what could have been an easier connection—maybe we should have the exact same kinds of conversations about religion and politics. I will suggest it. Because we are so different and avoid so many topics, I have a constant low level of negative judgment burbling away which easily flares into active aversion, and makes me lose sight of her positive qualities, which are many. In fact, we have plenty of common ground.
I’m embarrassed that I so quickly assumed an angry, adversarial stance, though I felt a little better when I heard Dan Shapiro being interviewed on NPR. He is the author of a book called Negotiating the Nonnegotiable: How to Resolve Your Most Emotionally Charged Conflicts. I was already thinking that my friend and I needed to have a conversation in which mutual understanding would be the goal, and I felt bolstered and further inspired when I heard this author say that this is precisely what should be the aim. He also said it’s rare, or difficult, for people to take this approach, which made me feel a little better. I’m also embarrassed that I published here, verbatim, my self-righteous note to my friend (though I did refrain from publishing her reply verbatim, which was a conscious charitable act), but at least it will give me something to tsk tsk over in future years, maybe: goodness, what an idiot I was.