The science that proves how you can have political debates but still get along and get things done
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Perhaps the worst part about 2020 isn't that it's thrown so much at us. It's that we've taken all the shit we've had to wade through and started flinging it at each other. The election. Racial justice. COVID. Literally small pieces of fabric for your face. And it's tearing us apart. A University of Nebraska-Lincoln survey of 800 Americans found that one in five had a friendship that was "damaged" because of a political argument.

The unfortunate thing about it all is that we have more in common than we think we do. We just suck at discussing it. According to More in Common, a group that works to address underlying drivers of polarization, Americans believe that more than half the country holds extreme views, but it's actually closer to 30%. The problem is that we've been misunderstanding each other, not that our views are wildly dissimilar.

While some people advocate just not talking to their peers with different views, the solution isn't to cut someone out of your life, or a refusal to engage with the someone of the opposite party. The solution is more conversation. But legit conversation, not the kind of "conversation" where two people just point out all the different ways the other person is wrong.


A recent study published in the Harvard Business Review proposes a better way for discussing disagreements. Researchers asked thousands of people to write responses to political statements with which they disagreed. Then, thousands of other people evaluates those statements based off of how receptive the writer seemed. The researchers were able to find four strategies which would help increase receptiveness in conversation.

The strategies are simple, but effective. The study advises people to "acknowledge the other person's perspective," "hedge your claims, "phrase your arguments in positive terms," and "point to areas of agreement, even if small or obvious."

It turns out, listening to other people's ideas makes them more receptive to yours. Meaning, if you want to change someone else's mind, it's better listen to what's on their mind. "When we appear receptive to listening to and respecting others' opposing positions, they find our arguments to be more persuasive," Francesca Gino, who worked on the study, wrote in the Harvard Business Review. "In addition, receptive language is contagious: It makes those with whom we disagree more receptive in return. People also like others more and are more interested in partnering with them when they seem receptive."

The takeaway from the study is hopeful. As deep as our scars seem right now, they can one day fade away – as long as we learn to listen. "[E]ven when discussing the most difficult topics, it is possible for people with polar-opposite points of view to have a constructive conversation," Gino wrote in the Harvard Business Review.

And there's a strong indication that people want to heal. As partisan as this past election was, a Pew Research poll conducted before the election found the vast majority of supporters of both candidates (86% of Trump supporters and 89% of Biden supporters) wanted their favored candidate to focus on the needs of all Americans, "even if it means disappointing some of his supporters."

The healing process doesn't sit only in the president's hands. It's up to us to be better in our daily lives. And that starts with communication.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

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