The View from The Niagara Guide

General observations and musings on how we can make Niagara a better place.

Hoping for Understanding and Reason

Mark Kawabe - Monday, November 14, 2016

Stay Calm and Try to Understand

If you've been anywhere near social media over the past year, you've probably heard there's a "divide". Actually, there are dozens of these so-called "divides". Thinking about the world this way is very common. I think there's a better way.

From an early age, we taught our kids about continuums. For example, "good" and "bad" are points at either end of a continuum. There's a huge range of possibilities in between. And, with this particular example, even good and bad aren't at the end of the continuum, because they too can be surpassed by "godlike" and "purely evil".

There is subtlety and nuance to every issue and yet, people believe and behave otherwise. From a psychological perspective, this makes sense. It is easier to believe you're right when the alternative is clear. When someone else disagrees with you, it's less taxing to demonize them than it is to take the effort to understand their perspective.

Humans are wired for something called "confirmation bias". We like agreeing with people who share our views. We are more comfortable with like-thinkers and are less comfortable when presented with people or information that aren't in line with our way of thinking. Because of this, we are more likely to dismiss information and people who we disagree with. The internet and social media make it easier for us to feed our confirmation bias. And, lest you think I'm vilifying you, I also want to point out that confirmation bias is a largely unconscious process.

Thankfully, we can choose to act differently. The choice is always there to open your mind to the larger possibilities an issue presents. Instead of jumping to conclusions, taking a moment to be genuinely curious and trying to see all sides of an issue is more productive than falling back to an entrenched view of an issue and to those who don't agree with your perspective.

Try this the next time you encounter a viewpoint that's contrary to yours. Genuinely seek to understand. Perhaps you'll be surprised to learn you have more in common with someone you disagree with. When we work from our commonalities instead of our differences, we'll be better positioned to build stronger relationships and more cohesive communities based on understanding instead of distrust.

 




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