Let me start this post by saying that I’m in favor of strong gun control.
Now here you are, one sentence in, and you have probably already had a polarized reaction. Either you’re righteously saying, “yeah!” or you are ready to tune me out as a liberal nut.
And that’s exactly what’s wrong in our society right now. We are all up to our eyeballs in a culture that screams, “Those motherf%#kers over there are stupid and wrong!” There is literally no way to connect and understand each other when both parties are behaving like angry monkeys slinging shit at their opponent.
And without the potential for connection and understanding, there is no hope.
Consider this. You and I can have a difference of opinion. We can even have a strong conviction in our stance. And we can put away the club we’ve been conditioned to communicate with and listen.
Listening doesn’t make you wrong. Listening doesn’t make you weak. Listening doesn’t mean you’re giving in.
Listening means you have the opportunity to understand. Listening means you have the potential to have a deeper perspective on all the pieces of the puzzle. Listening might strengthen your conviction, or it might soften your resistence.
If you refuse to stop and listen, if you insist on rigidly taking your stand and demonizing anyone who disagrees with you, you’re not arguing with real people. You’re arguing with a caricature of the beliefs you project, and a fear of finding even a little piece of the puzzle where you might be wrong, or at least incomplete in your perspective.
A couple years ago I got together with someone I went to high school with who is now a cop in Seattle. We hadn’t talked since high school. The conversation quickly found its way to his pro-gun views. It was obviously an issue he thought was important.
Rather than jump into the fray with my countering views, I just started asking questions, and got some interesting perspectives. That went on for about 20 minutes before he stopped and said, “So what do you think about it?” I laughed and said, “Let’s just say we don’t agree.”
I went on to share some of my thoughts. I didn’t change his mind on the issue, but he was open to hearing what I had to say, and acknowledged once or twice that I made a good point. We had an interesting conversation, and nobody’s temper flared. Nobody was demonized. Nobody came away feeling like the other was a complete and utter asshat. I suspect that wouldn’t have been the case if I had immediately gone into confrontation mode.
Here’s the reality. If you encounter someone with an opposing view on something like gun control (or any other topic, really), you’re unlikely to change their mind with your passionate arguments. If anything, that will probably get them to dig their heels in.
So next time you find yourself confronted with an opposing view, challenge yourself to ask questions. Challenge yourself to be curious. And challenge yourself to share your perspective with respect, rather than a club.
Want to change the world? Start with your everyday life. Stop putting up walls to connecting. Stop seeing others as a caricature of your beliefs. Open the door. Be curious. Listen and learn. Drop the club and communicate.
I dare you.
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