Transcending the "Us vs. Them" Narrative

Sep 29, 2022

According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted last month, “around seven-in-ten Americans (72%) say taking in civilian refugees from countries where people are trying to escape violence and war should be a very or somewhat important goal for immigration policy in the United States. But only 28% say this should be a very important priority, and opinions on this question vary by party, race and ethnicity, and other factors.”

One of our participants expressed concern that a growing “Us vs Them” narrative is dividing people on the issue of supporting civilian refugees who cross international borders in search of safety, security, and opportunities.

It is within this context that we put our ever-expanding Conversations Worth Having skills to use during this week’s Monday Kickstarters session.


Name it: “Us vs Them” narratives

Flip it: We see ourselves as a “whole.”

Frame it: We work together, respecting and valuing each other, with compassion and understanding; we are interconnected.

Other suggested frames

  • The more united we are, the stronger we are.
  • Our diversity is our strength.
  • We recognize and value our differences as our collective strength.
  • Working together as a team we recognize our individuality.


Our Monday Kickstarter collaborators offered thoughtful and thought-provoking generative questions that might make the chosen frame possible:

Questions for Others

  • When have we seen ourselves as a whole in the past? What conditions made that possible?
  • What has worked in the past to bring us together?
  • What communities are leading the way in this area?
  • What one idea might encourage some natural next steps?
  • What types of things do we all have in common? Tell me more about yourself.
  • How might we learn about each other’s views?
  • What personal values are considered when we are working as a whole?
  • How might we define “respect” and “compassion?”
  • What makes us feel connected to each other?
  • What do we value as a team?
  • How can we strengthen our relationship?

Questions for Self

  • When have I worked with someone who had an entirely different perspective than I did, and I came away thinking, “I’ve learned so much!”?
  • In what ways have my personal histories informed my views of the world?

Additional Questions that Might Help Move Some Sticking Points

  • How is immigration effecting you and your specific community?
  • What might be possible if we worked together?
  • How are members of your community supporting others who are in crisis?
  • When have you reached out and supported someone in need? Tell me about that time and what happened. How did you feel afterwards. What made it possible for you to do that?
  • What ideas do you have working together on US immigration?


Sometimes what we see as challenges have more “universal appeal” than we’re aware of at first. This week’s challenge could disrupt or initiate life-changing, positive national and global conversations as well as professional and personal ones. We just need to have them, and that requires responding instead of reacting.

This is why “Tuning In” is an essential aspect of the Conversations Worth Having Theory of Change.  Tuning In allows us to be intentional about our conversations, to have greater self-awareness, and greater other-awareness. Unless we tune in to the unconscious influences of our perceptions, those aspects of our body-mindset that are beneath the surface of awareness will govern our reactions.

Try this technique to tune in: Pause. Breathe. Get Curious.

Pausing stops the current momentum. Breathing deeply stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, calming your stress response. Getting curious allows you to consciously choose to be in the driver’s seat: “Where am I?” “Where are others?” “What’s the bigger picture or context?” Such questions challenge our thinking and invite us to choose positive intention.


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