Let’s face it, we argued pretty poorly in 2020. We didn’t really even argue or discuss – we mostly stated our positions, clapped for those who agreed, and shouted at those who didn’t. Many say you can’t discuss things with those who have closed minds, openly hate, or don’t come to the conversation with honest intentions. That’s probably true. But it’s also true that it’s too easy to slap those labels on those who disagree with us.
And yet, there was so much that we should have discussed together. The pros and cons of lockdowns, masks, the meaning of herd immunity, fire prevention, the role of government, societal equality…so many weighty topics that deserve more than a shouting match. Like many of you, I handled the situation mostly by not engaging in challenging discussions with those “on the other side.” Avoidance might work for maintaining a peaceful Facebook presence, but it will also harden our personal echo chambers won’t bring us closer to any solutions as a society. It keeps the peace, but only at the shallowest level.
If we lose the ability to discuss topics and learn from one other, we will never solve anything. It’s part of the human condition for us to have our individual limitations and unresolvable biases. The way to rise above our limits is by working together, but we need a variety of perspectives. If we only work with similar thinkers, we aren’t taking advantage of the wealth of human thought and experience. A football team of all quarterbacks can’t win a game and a construction crew of all plumbers can’t build a house. It’s a diversity of talents and perspectives that really powers a team.
This post is going to kick off a series of pieces in which I’m going to explore how we might better discuss, argue, and communicate with each other. I’m not going to talk about government policy or how to design social media platforms. I’d like to start with what I control – myself – and those that I have a chance to influence – the people around me. If we try to better connect with our family, coworkers, and friends, it’s not only more likely to succeed than a tweet war with strangers, but it will probably make a bigger positive impact on our lives.
I don’t pretend to be an expert – I’m going to share thoughts gleaned from my own experiences and reading. I am also far from perfect and I can’t always practice what I preach. But I’m trying. Maybe we can try together.
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