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.

 



Making Niagara Better

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, October 29, 2013

It's easy to complain - about anything. It's harder to make things better in reality. But in reality, we don't recognize just how good we have things.

When the Rogers cellular network went down a while back, my son noted all the people commenting on Facebook about the situation. He called these "first world problems", and I think he's right. If you've lived somewhere else for any length of time, you probably recognize that while we have our challenges in our respective communities, our region and our nation, that overall things are pretty good.

Everyone wants things to be better than they are. I do as well. I also think our collective perceptions of how good or bad things are may not be accurate. There is much good happening in Niagara. Yes, there are challenges, but there is much good taking place. While we bemoan the challenges, we often fail to focus on the good.

There is much work to be done to make Niagara better. I think a good chunk of that work needs to be done in people's minds. Recognize how fortunate we are compared to others in other parts of the world, in other parts of our country, in other parts of our own community. More than that, recognize that we are here to evolve, to grow, to learn and experience. I think helping our neighbours is a good way to start helping our selves and if we all do that, Niagara will be a much richer place indeed.

Want to see a better Niagara? Look in the mirror and look at how you can improve. By changing yourself you can change the world.

It starts with you.




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