I'm not unique in observing the increased level of polarization, division and tribalism in current day American life. We all see this. Much has been written about it and why it is happening.

But, my continuing mental challenge has been determining what to do about it. What can I do (not just say) beyond complaining about it and blaming others for acting tribal. How can I reduce the level of polarization?

I have arrived at my formula to reduce tribalism. The three points below are my plan to reduce the "me vs. them" that I feel or speak about. If you find our current state equally troubling, and want to take action, maybe follow this formula as well.


Learn about people and history.

Really read anything. Include news reports, newspapers, and periodicals—not just the short stuff—read long form articles that explain a subject in detail. Even more importantly, read books. Big books. Long books.

No amount of television, YouTube, Facebook or other video sources can deliver the amount, depth of information, and understanding that written work can provide. A long book can explain a subject in detail and offer nuanced insight together with proposed solutions to problems that short video never can.

Time spent reading is time not spent consuming "quick-hit" media designed to drive emotional sensationalism that feeds off our preconceptions. This creates more animosity towards other groups and increased division. Time spent reading is relaxing. It builds patience. Reading provides the time your brain needs to absorb a thought, consider it, and come to your own conclusions about it. There is no better way to learn and come to a deep understanding of a subject.

Reading builds true understanding in depth.


Meet others and see that they want the same things as you do.

Go places and speak with people. Meet them. Talk to them. Buy them a coffee. See how others live. Learn why they behave as they do. Ask about topics to learn how they see the world.

Mostly, travel around America, but if you can, travel to other countries. See how they do things. Ask about their views on America and Americans.

Learning from others can be very eye opening.

First, I find that they are not so different from me in what they want from life. We all want to do the best we can for the ones we love. We are all just trying to do our best to get through the day. So easy to say but so impactful when you experience it.

Often you'll also find that a place is not as it has been depicted. Maybe you imagine a place to be dangerous or unwelcoming. Frequently that turns out to be not so true. There are good people everywhere. I can't tell you how many times I've been told by a local that the next town over is a "not nice" place only to find when I travel there it is fine. In fact, the people there tell me that the last town is "not nice" and they are amazed I made it out alive. There is a universal view the world over that "the other place" is where it is bad. My place or town is great. Tribalism lives everywhere.

It is hard to dislike or dismiss someone when you have met them, spoke with them, and shook their hand. Travel softens our views of how different they are. We learn that there is more in common and that what's different is not such a big deal. Often what is different is part of history or based on the uniqueness of a location like weather or geography.

Travel reduces the distance between the tribes.


Become willing to give concessions.

With a better understanding of the issues and solutions, and reduced distance between us and others, we are ready for the last step, compromise.

Particularly in American political life, today we see uncompromising positions as the dominating perspective. It's "my way or the highway". We win and you loose. This is not a formula for long-term success. It encourages continuous conflict and battle. You can't eliminate "the others" and they are not going to completely agree with you. Even when your viewpoint "wins", others are around to fight you again tomorrow.

A better approach for long-term success and happiness is compromise. Democracy is ultimately based on compromise. Partly this is because you can't always get all of what you want. But, it is also true that you are not completely right. A bit of humility is needed. Have the humbleness to understand that you might not always be completely correct. Other ideas, particularly when combined with yours, may make a superior solution. Democracy seeks to debate and find the compromise that includes the best ideas.

Compromise, as I use the word here, is not giving up your ideas. It is reaching a decision or position where each side makes concessions such that both can say, "I can live with that." It is not what I "want" instead it is what I can "live with."

I still argue firmly for my point of view but remain willing to listen to others and seek always to find the compromise position that I think they will be "okay" with.

Compromise creates lasting solutions that are good enough for everyone.