Tuesday, March 04, 2014

"Meeting people counts. Talking counts."

A common refrain I've often conveyed to the students in my argumentation and debate classes over the years is to try to look through arguments to the people giving them. No matter how certain you may feel in your own rectitude, try to understand where the other person, who feels just as passionately about the opposite point-of-view from you, might be coming from.

In other words, accept the possibility, however remote, that maybe -- just maybe -- you might be wrong, and maybe -- just maybe -- they might be right. Not only is this likely to open your mind to different ways of thinking, it's also, more importantly, liable to increase your sense of empathy. Michael Rubens, a former segment producer at The Daily Show, explains how his time at the nightly comedy skein taught him this exact thing. As he says:
I don’t think that the lesson is that we’re all basically the same and everyone is wonderful and let’s hug. I will admit that the lesson might be that I’m easily gulled or just morally promiscuous, willing to drop my analytical knickers at the hint of a smile or a charming Southern accent. What I’m hoping the lesson is: People are complex and can hold different views and still be moral actors — essentially the message that Jon Stewart talked about during his Rally for Sanity.
Maybe you already grasp that concept, because you have good friends or loving relatives with beliefs that are wildly divergent from your own. But I tend to think my experience is more typical: I lived in a little bubble surrounded by people who think more or less like me. And when I considered people with opposing viewpoints I would turn into a fabulist, concocting an entire narrative of who they were and what they were like — and what they were like was yucko. Because I was not really interacting with them. I just thought I was, because, hey, look, there they are on the TV, or there’s that guy’s post in the comments section. But that stuff doesn’t count. Meeting people counts. Talking counts.
Check out the rest here. An interesting and insightful read.

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