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Hostility's Roots in Fear

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The key to restoring balance and tolerance, says Betsy Hostetler, Ph.D., is to calm people’s fears. Dr. Hostetler, director of human resource development at the University of Maryland Medical Center, told me, “I believe polarization occurs when people are deeply invested in their point of view, and fearful that others won’t respect what matters most about it. The fear gets in the way. They ‘dig in’ in an attempt to protect something precious.”

Echoing the approach of the UNESCO Declaration of Principles on Tolerance, she says, “The healing movement is the one that brings people together. It happens when someone pauses to inquire about the other’s viewpoint, and to share what matters most about theirs. It is the shift away from protection and toward learning.”