I was reading a post-election editorial piece this morning which stated that voters who voted in a specific way, clearly believed a specific thing. The actual details of this are unimportant The general gist though, was that people who voted differently than the author of the piece were being portrayed as thoughtless and unfeeling. I have opinions. Sometimes even strongly held opinions. But I know that people who disagree with me don’t necessarily want different things than I do. We can disagree on methods yet still be working toward similar goals. Yet, we’ve become so divisive that there’s very little room for differences of opinion. You’re either with us or against us.
On my way to work the other day supporters of both candidates stood on opposite sides of a driveway which led to a polling place. I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great if just one person from either side had crossed that space and hugged someone from the other side. I get that hugging is curtailed because of the Covid. I also get that we feel we’re so diametrically opposed that we can barely stand to acknowledge the existence of another viewpoint no less literally embrace the holders of such viewpoints. Still, a girl can dream.
But my imagined vignette and the op ed piece got me thinking. What if we each committed to just one conversation with a person who believes something different than we do? What if we approached such a conversation not with the intention to convert someone else to our way of thinking but merely to state our opinion and hear another person state theirs? What if we really listened to the other person? We don’t have to agree to offer someone the common courtesy of simply listening. We all want to be seen and heard. Everyone wants to feel that they matter. You can understand a viewpoint without having to hold it yourself. It’s called empathy.
I think if we each committed to one conversation, we might find that we have more in common than things which divide us. When was the last time you really listened to someone else? So often, we “listen” with half an ear, all the while formulating our response or rebuttal. I’m not saying these would be easy conversations. We like to be right. We’re certain that in order for that to happen, somebody else has to be wrong. But I think the world is a lot less black and white than we’d like to believe. We can be right and wrong simultaneously and so can other people.
So who’s in? Who is willing to have just one civil conversation with someone who believes something radically different? Living in an echo chamber, where we surround ourselves with only people who believe what we believe, does not move us forward. Likewise, endless arguing and insisting that we are right and other people are wrong does not move us forward either. Let’s be brave and begin to really hear one another.