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Why Can’t We Be Friends?

I find myself singing to myself a lot these days. The 1975 hit song from the group War had a simple message, “Why can’t we be friends? Why can’t we be friends?

For some time I’ve felt we have lost some ability to listen to others and learn from differences of opinion. However, the debate and rhetoric that’s occurred over the health care debate threw many of us over the edge. I don’t understand why we can’t all be friends.

Instead, Sarah Palin’s Facebook page shows crosshairs over the districts of targeted Democrats and threats have been called in to Congressman who didn’t vote the way some think they should. Others claim no one’s listening to them while some quietly exclaim their happiness over the direction of the country.

Have we lost the ability to respect each other even though we might have differences of opinion? Can we no longer listen to others and learn from what those with whom we don’t agree might have to say? Instead, it seems we resort to name calling, scare tactics, violence and attacks on others to show our concern.

As a public relations professional I believe we have a responsibility to 1) listen, 2) engage in positive and fruitful discussions. It is only through those discussions that we can strengthen our community and continue enjoying the freedoms on which our country is built. As counselors, we need to be working with our clients and employers to help them remember to listen, and to hear what all sides are saying.

I do believe many politicians are listening to Americans. Legislation I want doesn’t always go my way but it is always completed following comprehensive research and thoughtful debate. In the end, there is often no right or wrong. But what’s missing lately is respect, and thanks for a job well done.

We must begin to listen again, respect each other’s views and even learn from what others are saying. We need to remember the manners our parents taught us…say please and thank you and treat others the way we expect to be treated ourselves.

To build strong communities we need to remember these fundamental beliefs and help each other when we’re down. We can stop the rhetoric and instead take a few minutes to learn from someone different from us.

Why can’t we be friends? Why can’t we be friends? Or…maybe you can hear Aretha Franklin singing R-E-S-P-E-C-T as well.

Photo credit: Gwennypics

By |2018-03-18T23:01:44+00:00March 28th, 2010|Leadership & Networking|6 Comments

About the Author:

Mary Deming Barber, APR, Fellow PRSA, runs a strategic communications consultancy where she helps clients understand how to integrate new media into traditional communication programs. Mary has counseled clients in Tacoma, Anchorage, San Francisco, Oregon, and Colorado for nearly 40 years working with a variety of food organizations, several agencies, and as a key team member on two successful US Senate campaigns. 


  1. We have a family member that has been actively involved as a consultant (for more than 25 years) to various politicians on both sides of the fence. One of the things that he has noted is that people (Republican and Deomcrat alike) aren’t trying to have that meaningful dialog that you’re talking about here.

    Everyone seems to have an agenda that they have to see though – not enough of the players are really sticking to the ideals that they once had when they got to DC.

    While it can be both sadenning and disheartening, I believe that more folks are moving to the middle of the playground where everyone has a chance to have their say. It’s usually when you’re ‘in the fringes’ that the nutjobs make their claims.

    Nice Post, Mary!

    Narciso Tovar
    Big Noise Communications

    • mary March 29, 2010 at 12:37 pm - Reply

      I hope you are correct Narciso that politicians start moving back to the middle. Respectful discourse will surely return if that happens.

      The November elections will be a very telling sign as well, especially with regard to the “fringes.” The “non fringe” folks need to vote again to show their voice and their strength.

      Let’s help return the discourse and manners to the discussion.

  2. Rosanna Fiske March 29, 2010 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    Thank you for bringing attention to the art of active listening and consensus building. I find that many people these days just tune others out the minute they sense some disagreement or difference in viewpoint. It’s almost as if we’re all looking for that selective confirmation in our viewpoint, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

    • mary March 29, 2010 at 2:36 pm - Reply

      That is so true and it is furthered by our ability to select news we want to listen to as well. I fear for the future. As parents, we have to make sure our children understand the importance of listening to others and learning from different viewpoints as well. If we don’t the trend will continue.

  3. Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR March 30, 2010 at 4:47 pm - Reply

    I’ve had this discussion with many peers regarding the lack of civil discourse in American culture for the past two years. It is OK to agree to disagree. We need to respect each other’s thoughts and ideas. We need to actively listen and process what is being said. We need to be more active in saying this behavior is not acceptable. We wouldn’t tolerate it from our children then why are we from other “grown-ups?”

    • mary March 30, 2010 at 4:49 pm - Reply

      Thanks Ann Marie. I also believe that, as parents, we have a responsibility to make sure our children understand the importance of respectful discussion. Otherwise, things will only get worse.

      Thanks for stopping by.

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