Why It’s a Good Idea to Listen to Opposing Views.
By Eric Turner for The Startup
To be unbiased means to show no prejudice for or against something; to be impartial. So, I guess let’s talk about why it’s so hard to be unbiased.
There’s a certain pride inside all of us. If you’re thinking, “yeah but I’m really not prideful in any way”, then think about something you’re good at. Once you have that, imagine someone critiquing and criticizing it.
How do you feel now? You might feel like you have a chip on your shoulder or a reason to prove somebody wrong. That’s your pride swelling. There’s of course, as with anything, good and bad to your pride swelling.
But what gives us that feeling? Why am I so hung up on proving to you that a Ford is just a better oiled machine than a Chevy, or vice versa? Why does Walmart suck? Does anyone even know?
I remember a fellow student telling me a while back that Walmart put food on the table when she was growing up. Her mom worked there and the steady paycheck took care of them. So, without listening to her story, would I have been able to see the good?
Challenging a bias is one of the most frustrating experiences you will endure. I try to do it often. There is nothing quite like the final resolve after the initial internal storm of thought and feelings. The reason I try to do it often is because I believe it’s difficult to gain wisdom and growth as a person if you just believe the way you do without questioning how you came to that belief.
Not to mention, without giving consideration to the opposing side of said belief. If someone told you a story about a homeless guy that wasn’t really homeless, but he just held a cardboard sign at a busy corner because he knew he’d get a lot of random cash, you probably wouldn’t feel great about volunteering your time to the homeless population.
It might reinforce your belief that they’re just “beggars” hoping to score some drugs with fast cash. On the contrary, if someone told you a story of a homeless man that had a bachelor’s degree but couldn’t get a job and didn’t have family to support him, so now he’s on the street, you may be a bit more inclined to volunteer some of your time to help the population.
Either way, to be sold entirely on one position or the other would be a little irresponsible. Frankly, you’d be limiting yourself.
Back to the Chevy and Ford example…
Let’s just pretend for a second that you think Chevy is better than Ford because that’s what your best friend thinks. You trust your best friend. You know that he or she has ample knowledge of the way the components are manufactured and put together.
Without researching how the vehicle is made, this would mean that any conversation or argument you’ve had with a wicked Ford supporter is based on your belief in the Chevy product because your best friend likes it.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could just win arguments like that? “Oh yeah, well you’re wrong, because Timmy likes it”, “Wait, what? Timmy likes Chevy? Ugh, man…can’t believe I’ve been so wrong this whole time”. I’m using an overly simplified example but again, it’s to support my belief that you have to do some research and know why you actually believe what you do for it to even hold water.
Do you want to believe in something and perhaps stand for something that you haven’t solidified soundly in your own mind? What if someone discredited Timmy by simply stating that he picks his nose? “Oh no, internal conflict…I hate nose-pickers! But Timmy likes Chevy! I’m not sure I can like Chevy anymore”.
Cognitive dissonance is a fascinating thing. We tend to flock toward our own opinions and beliefs. We like to only listen to what leaders and peers have to say in support of those areas because otherwise we’ll be uncomfortable.
The problem is, once someone throws in there that Timmy picks his nose, we have to decide if that character flaw is going to sway us in another direction or if we can make the exception that although Timmy picks his nose, he still knows a lot about Chevy.
You have to find a way to identify a truth in your heart while still having the ability to be tolerant of the truth in an opposing viewpoint.
You won’t be able to function in relationship with others if you can’t. I’ve heard it said quite interestingly in a college class I attended a long time ago. The professor pointed to the white wall in the room and he said, “This wall is green. It is. This is a green wall. I know you think it’s white, but it’s not”, and he began shouting, “This wall is green!”.
He actually did it for a while and it was kind of intense. But he got his point across. I know that the wall was white, but in the same way the wall was white to me, it was absolutely the greenest green to him.
To be intolerant of another viewpoint provides a huge disadvantage when it comes to being able to have any critical conversation. Have fun with the surface level he-said-she-said gossip, because that’s about the extent of what your interactions will be diminished to if you choose to limit yourself to intolerance.
The moment you become convinced that you’ve learned it all, is the moment you lose yourself to your pride. You’ve now created a wall that limits your potential to understand another viewpoint.
Do yourself a big favor. The next time you recognize a large bias that you possess, research something in support of the opposing view. It might take you a few tries to actually do it. It might hurt a little and make you cringe. But if you can just open your mind to it and be tolerant of the intolerance, you may find the growth you’re looking for.