Haidt (as a social and cultural psychologist who has spent sixteen years researching and teaching at the University of Virginia) explores why society has such trouble discussing religion, and why we can’t, “make conversations about morality, politics, and religion more common, more civil and more fun.” Haidt contends that politics and religion as expressions of our underlying moral psychology. The author uses three metaphors to help explain his arguments in the three main sections of the book. First humans are led by their intuition first and make their reasoning second, meaning that moral judgments are largely made upon reflection. He then argues that there is more to morality than fairness and harm (i.e., six ‘moral foundations’ – care, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity, and liberty). Haidt’s final metaphor demonstrates that humans are naturally selfish (90% chimp) as well as ‘groupish’ (10% bee), this can mean that our morality can both bind and blind us. Haidt is fundamentally trying to figure out why we can’t all just get along. He concludes that we should start seeing things from other people’s point of view. The strength of the text is how he goes about demonstrating why this is such a difficult thing for us to achieve and the tools that could make it possible.
Jonathan Haidt is a professor in the Business and Society Program of NYU-Stern School of Business. His work focuses on applying his research on moral psychology with economists and other social scientists to figure out how to make businesses, non-profits, cities, and other systems work more efficiently and ethically. Haidt has been named one of the “top global thinkers” by Foreign Policy magazine, and one of the “top world thinkers” by Prospect magazine. He is among the most cited researchers in political psychology and moral psychology and has given four TED talks. I was unable to determine his faith perspective as it influences his research and work. While this text will not be part of my research, I found his constructs helpful to understand why religion and politics seem to defy the possibility of being discussed with civility and from the perspective of trying to understand the other (the apparent intent of Haidt’s text).
What I found most helpful was his final admonition towards trying to understand someone from another ‘matrix.’ “Don’t jump right in. Don’t bring up morality until you’ve found a few points of commonality or in some way established a bit of trust.” I was immediately reminded of the coaching model developed by Bob Logan. Bob Logan’s coaching process is known as the five Rs – Relate, Reflect, Refocus, Resource, and Review. While these coaching stages can and are utilized globally in more formal coaching relationships, they also can be quite helpful in the spontaneous, informal interactions we all experience every day.
Relate is the stage where the coach establishes care and trust. The adage is still true; “people want to know that you care before they care what you know.” They also want to know if they can trust you with what they are about to share with you. This natural coaching mindset is a great way to initially meet and make initial contact with people by simply asking “How are you and what are you excited about today?” with authentic care and interest. Again, genuine affirmation and curiosity in what the other is saying convey respect and interest (this skill is described as active listening). Reflect is the stage where coaches reflect back to the person being coached what they have just said (e.g., “Let me try to restate what you’ve said to see if I heard you correctly?”). Summarization and restatement utilizing the vocabulary of the speaker substantiate listening and the desire for the listener (the coach) to be curious about what is being said and striving to understand the speaker’s perspective. While not attempting to unpack or speak to the nuances of Haidt’s work, I appreciate his overarching admonition to continue to strive to understand the other to find common ground for co-existence and hopeful thriving.
Litchfield, Rebecca, “Book Review: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt”, LSE Review of Books, August 10th, 2012. Accessed 04/03/2019. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/lsereviewofbooks/2012/08/10/book-review-the-righteous-mind-jonathan-haidt/
 Haidt, Jonathan, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion (New York, NY: Random House, 2012) 371.
 Logan, Robert E. and Sherilyn Carlton, Coaching 101: Discover the Power of Coaching (Bloomington, MN:ChurchSmart Resources, 2003) 29.