Today was not the first time I had realized this, but it struck me as especially true for some reason. We always try to convince each other of our points of view in politics, religion, and whatnot through reasoning with each other and trying to prove how much more logical, more factual, or more thoughtful one opinion is over the other. I am a huge proponent of that (even when we don’t end up agreeing, I find these sorts of conversations exhilarating). However, perhaps the best way I’ve noticed to get people to agree with you, or even to appreciate your point of view, is to empathize with them. Empathy is the key.
I believe empathy is the key to many of the world’s problems. Too often we think only in our selfish mindsets and in the limited view of the ideals that we have been brought up to believe in. How many of you have views and values that are particularly different from your parents/families? I would guess that number is fairly low. A significant majority of the time, people tend to keep the ideas and worldviews of the people that they grow up around. Even I am guilty of this in some respects (value in individualism, et al.). We don’t empathize with the fact that other people have values that are different from ours for reasons. There are reasons that people believe the things they do. Regardless if they are good or bad, these people find these reasons convincing. Why is it that we cannot grant anyone even that? We are so caught up in being right that we are not willing to admit that maybe another person has a point. Maybe they have a different set of experiences that lead them to believe a certain value is more or less of a priority than we would place it as, and therefore they have different moral guidelines or different political views. Perhaps their family was starkly different from yours. It seems these thoughts so rarely pop up in our minds and we are completely unwilling to have an empathetic discussion of world problems.
What is an empathetic discussion? Do not judge your discussion partner. Do not think that they are somehow morally inferior to you. I am especially guilty of this. I’ve been called out before in debates for making harsh moral claims against certain groups of people and offending them, and I try my best to be more reasonable, but it’s part of my nature. Discuss every aspect of a belief, especially the why. Why do you believe this over that? Look at every aspect of the person’s life, analyze how they could come to this conclusion. Childhood, parents, teachers, friends, all of these people impact us so significantly that we would be entirely different people without them. We would be unrecognizable in most cases. Put yourself in their shoes. Make your goal to be understanding the other person, not defeating them.
Through empathetic discussion, I think that a person can achieve not only greater satisfaction from discussions, but also a better understanding of the world, the way it works, and people. You will love people more when you understand why they are different. Because there’s nothing wrong with different.