Commentary: Balancing ‘Me’ and ‘We’

by Orlaine I. Gabert, Door County Civility Project

The third tool of civility is inclusivity. It asks each of us to listen to viewpoints different from our own so that we can see issues in other ways and try to find common ground. However, we seem to live in a world of either me or we, with the result that me wins or we win. In reality, that often means that neither wins.

Being inclusive means that we need to work at better balancing me and we. It is critically important that we take care of ourselves (me). Me is the only person who is 100 percent responsible. You need to fully know yourself, your skills, your wants and your needs, and you must identify anything that is an absolute priority for you. “I need to live in the same community as my family” is an example.

As a single person who lives alone, your balance of me and we is unequal on the me side. You can make many of your decisions or deal with many of your problems considering only yourself, but you still have many we connections: family, friends, work, community, state, country, world.

In these we situations, you must be one of the we. Knowing your priorities, you make decisions about the people and groups you join. Otherwise, in the other various we worlds, you follow the rules even if you do not fully agree, find that you can accept the majority decision or work to find an agreeable solution. Those we people and groups can also help you to make your best decisions.

When you enter an intimate relationship, this balance begins to shift. Now you are in a daily we situation, so it is very important that you and your partner not only understand the other’s absolutes but can also live comfortably with them. There is still time for me, but as your family expands, me time is reduced as we responsibilities and decisions increase. Most work situations are we environments. You were hired for your talent and interest in the work, and now you need to be comfortable with the we policies, guidelines and values. When speaking about your work, it is best to use we in describing it to honor the contributions of everyone involved.

Some people who work in government have been hired for their skills and interests, and they follow the same we guidelines as the rest of workforce, though perhaps with a higher degree of confidentiality.

Other government workers have been elected. They were selected because a majority of voters had similar beliefs, were of the same political party or felt those candidates were the better choice. But once chosen, these people work for we: all of the people in the district that they represent.

Overall, our country has a two-party system: Democrat or Republican. As elected officials do their work, they need to be a we.When they take action, we – the legislative, judicial or executive body – did it. Perhaps with this focus, the members of each party can focus on the we work, making decisions that are in the best interest of all the people: considering the problems that need to be addressed, the options that fit their thoughts and beliefs, and how each option will affect all the people.

I will always remember the words of a co-worker in Fond du Lac: “There is more than one way to get to Oshkosh.” Maintaining the balances between me and we will allow for civil conversations in all walks of life.