After what may have been one of the most vitriolic elections in American history, a Virginia Tech professor is declaring today, ‘ National Frenemies Day.’ Robbie Harris explains what it is and how to celebrate.
A frenemy is someone you like or just know, who fundamentally disagrees with you on issues that are important.
Assistant Professor of public and international relations, Todd Schenk says National Frenemies Day, which he declared, on purpose, for the day after the election, is "A day, essentially, for going back to, perhaps the people that we de-friended on social media during the election, reaching out to the neighbor whose (political ) lawn sign pissed us off every time we drove down the road, the colleague that we’ve avoided around the dining table at lunch.”
He’s not saying it’s easy, but it is important.
Schenk asks, “How do we slow down a little bit? How do we kind of hold back instead of launching into a tirade on why we're right and the other side is wrong, based on a whole set of assumptions about the other side, long enough to have a conversation with them?”
Schenk has a list of techniques that includes things like suspending judgment until the other person has finished talking, active listening, but not hesitating to question assumptions. And above all, no personal attacks.
It’s not something too many candidates and elected officials have done the best job demonstrating.
“Certainly many people smarter than I suggest that congress’s level of vitriol and animosity across party lines has certainly reached new heights. People don’t like that and they don’t necessarily want to see congress in gridlock. They don’t want to see the level of dysfunctionality that we’ve been experiencing. And so there might be things that they should learn from this. I don’t know if they’re going to.”
But you may, and Schenk will, if you share your experiences at the frenemies website. He’ll be looking to hear what people do on frenemies day.
Were they able to stop thinking about themselves as voters and go back to seeing themselves as friends or colleagues?
He will publish the results of what he learns from the first annual Frenemies Day, inaugurated November 9th 2016.