In this week’s spotlight I wish to explore the idea of rational discussion in an environment where emotion tends to rule thinking. If you stop and reflect on the last time you disagreed with someone, you can ask yourself an easy and obvious question: why? Now I don’t mean the obvious here, like I hate Trump and he/she likes him, or the movie was great and they hated it, etc. What I really mean is why does the person you disagreed with think the way they do?
Maybe They Are Right!
What we seem to lack is our ability to accept the possibility that the person we’re speaking with is not stupid. Think about that, what if everyone you disagreed with was potentially right and you were wrong? What would happen if you truly listened to the reasons behind their thinking as though you were speaking with a genius who you genuinely admired? Would your exchange with them be any different than as you experienced the last time you strongly disagreed with someone—anyone?
What if you treated everyone who disagreed with you as though they might just have something, even one kernel of information that you were unaware of? Can you imagine the difference in your exchange?
Not As Smart As We Think
I think part of our problem comes down to how emotionally attached we are to our ideas and this discounts anyone who might disagree, placing them in the stupid class—‘How could you possibly believe that stuff?’ sort of attitude.
We all are prone to automatic actions such as confirmation bias, false-consensus bias, Texas Sharp shooter bias, Dunning Kruger Effect, ad hominem fallacy, and so forth—matters that I have discussed in the past and written about in my book, Gotcha! The Subordination of Free Will. Bottom line, we think we are much smarter than we really are!
Be Open To Being Wrong
So how do we have rational discussions when our passions are intent on taking over and dominating our thinking?
- First, deal with facts, not opinions including those of the so-called pundit authorities.
- Second, ask questions. Let the other person fully expound their reasons, often you will find that they hang themselves with the illusions of explanatory depth.
- Third, validate the worth of the person you are speaking with. Many people argue vehemently due to a need to validate themselves. When you validate them, this disarms their emotional intensity and can lead to reasonable results.
- Next, defuse disgust. Connect with the person in some personal way so you are not perceived to be one of those who represents everything the other person identifies as disgusting.
- Fifth, change the frame. You can do this by changing the context of the discussion, placing it in a moral or logical framework. Changing the moral framework will often lead the other person to a more reasonable openness to your ideas.
- Finally, be willing to change your own mind. Perhaps you are the one dealing with the illusion of explanatory depth.
Once you begin to have real rational exchanges, I think you will be amazed at how much you may discover about yourself and your beliefs as well as those of whoever you may disagree with.
My thoughts anyway, what are yours?
Some ideas in this article were derived from material by Allison Taylor and Bill O’Reilly