Don’t worry, this is not a political post (I know, you’re tired of politics and so am I). I’m just using the arbitrary politics scenario so you can relate, hopefully making it easier for me to get my message across.
Anyways, picture this: you’re sitting in front of the television on a Sunday night watching a presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. To make things more fun, picture yourself inside a toddler’s body with a pacifier in your mouth so you can’t speak, only listen.
After watching the debate, your mom expresses her admiration for Hillary, especially in her sincere responses, passion for the issues, and presidential temperament. Your father wholeheartedly objects to these observations, because of course, he is the wise one and his cynic mind can read Hillary’s true intentions like a book. He accuses her of being fake, manipulative, and saying what will make the people happy. His admiration for power and strength leads to him supporting Trump as he feels that his attitude is necessary to be a successful Commander-in-Chief.
But who is really right? Let’s go further.
Your mom responds to your dad by using the exact same counterpoints that he used against Hillary (manipulative, fake, masking his true intentions by using appealing words to a certain crowd). Your dad then goes to laugh this off because he finds it hypocritical to ignore those traits in Hillary but use them as attacks on Trump. Sound familiar?
Your parents are both people that you have considerable respect for and you have always trusted their ability to think rationally and provide sound advice, so how in the world can they be watching the EXACT SAME THING and report polar opposite judgements of character?
Your older brother supports dad’s views, older sister supports mom’s views, but with you being the little mute toddler, you see a different perspective, right?
This phenomenon is not uncommon, in fact its presence in society is as sure of a thing as taxes. Even more peculiar, hardly anyone is exempt from this bias of absorbing only what agrees with our established opinions, and ignoring anything that contradicts it. It’s a law that transcends all tax brackets, all levels of expertise, and all levels of education.
Get my point? It’s human nature. It always has been and always will be. Isn’t it funny how people always think they can persuade peers to leave the bad side and change political views with their bulletproof points, but never actually succeed? We will never stop discussing socialism vs. capitalism, but we will ALWAYS be certain that our side is the right one.
This is a hard reality to accept, as accepting it means you must acknowledge that you may have a weakness in your ability to reason. And this isn’t limited to politics – every single argument based on differing opinions has its roots in this empathetic handicap that is in our DNA.
So, what can we take from this? Much more than you think, but I can’t fit it all in this post so I will leave you with a snippet so you can think about it for yourself.
There is a reason that Mom thinks that way about Hillary and there is a reason that Dad thinks that way about Trump. Maybe Mom had 12 ex-boyfriends with traits that she sees in Donald Trump while relating to Hillary’s battle to overcome gender barriers. Maybe Dad’s heart was broken by WhatsHerName back in college, so his hindsight glasses have taught him to be apprehensive about deceitful women. Truthfully, the reasons don’t matter. But do recognize that the reasons exist, and if you can’t see them, then it’s you who lacks the perspective of the argument, not them.
Are you going to tell your mom that her concerns about Trump are not valid? Are you going to tell her that it’s unreasonable for her to see some of herself in Hillary resulting in greater trust and respect for hardworking women? Are you going to tell your dad that he is delusional when he says he can see Hillary is full of crap? You get the point. You can’t tell them these things because then you’d be telling them to change their values on what they find important based on their life experiences. And you will never succeed in doing that.
If you try, though, to point out these points to your parents (or whoever is debating about whatever topic), then they may actually understand that they are not debating points when they are disagreeing. They are debating values.
Try having a debate on values next time, you’ll find it to be far more civil.
What I hope you will take from this is that instead of judging, shaming, or mocking others for their views in any argument, take the time to see if you possess the power of perspective to figure out the basis for their stance. It’s an incredibly powerful tool that’ll extend far beyond politics, and it isn’t an understatement to say that it can change your life for the better.
And if it’s really that important for your friend to see your point of view, then know that you will only be able to get them to see it once you understand what made them see the opposing view in the first place.