©2017 C. Henry Martens
I spend a lot of time and energy begging people to be indecisive. That may sound strange, but in our rushed society I find it far too easy to rush to conclusions. People get in trouble rushing to conclusions. What’s worse is how we all have to live with decisions made in a hurry, especially the I-told-you-so terrible consequences kind. I mean, we’re always right… RIGHT?
The thing is, most of us make decisions based on the leanings of the tribe we hang out with. Life is easier and we’re happier when we can all agree on who our heroes are and who the evil bastards are. Agreement takes less brain power, too. No need to consider more than one point of view. But the problem is if we only hear one side, we are basing our conclusions on limited information.
Have you noticed that once someone takes a position on something, they are practically impossible to sway to the other side? I think this is a growing phenomenon, as before the industrial revolution people depended on being right to survive. Nowadays people know they can be idiots and they will still be taken care of. Not only are people stuck in cement, they are adamant that they don’t have to consider the opposite side of an argument they have already formed a conclusion on.
Recently I was in a meeting, and a subject came up that I felt was worthy of discussion. I leaned one way, I admit, but had not decided completely on what side I would support. I wanted further input and felt the intelligent, well-informed people in the group might offer some interesting points of view and perhaps some facts I might have missed. I suggested we look into it, perhaps even having an informal debate. A person I respected, a person I had always assumed was intelligent and inquisitive, objected right away. “I already know everything I need to know about (the issue).” I asked what they knew about the arguments opposing their conclusion. “If I need to know something, I can always get on the internet and find out anything I need.”
How does a person come to a conclusion worthy of taking a position… without entertaining both sides?
It is done ALL THE TIME.
People form conclusions without hearing more than one side and then spend their energy defending the conclusion they have formed rather than listening to and evaluating the side that opposes their choice. They purposely avoid even hearing opposing evidence, entertaining logic, and the worst thing… actively seek to vilify any opposing viewpoints or people rather than test their arguments. And I’m sure you have noticed, right? Those people on the other side are such hypocrites.
Got a mirror?
A challenge. I double dog dare you to listen to someone without defending your own conclusions. Pick a subject and stick to one single point without getting distracted by the greater theme. You’ll have to act interested and in particular, think in terms of how the idea might actually work. It’ll be hard to toss out your negativity, and truthfully, most will fail. It takes practice to maintain an open mind, and most people automatically assume they have one without doing the work. Open mindedness takes an intentional effort.
How can we expect our politicians to get work done if they aren’t hearing what we have to say? And who can blame them for not listening when it seems there are only two points of view that are horizontally opposed? We citizens set the example, and somehow, we have fallen for the idea that we are right while only considering one information source, our tribe.
I watched a documentary yesterday and again today. The film offered information I would never have entertained had I not been willing to hear what was being said. I am a better, more informed, and less ignorant person for the experience. My mind has been enlightened, my view of the world challenged, and my prior conclusions altered. What surprises me is that my former position is largely intact, while I now agree with all the major points made in a documentary I expected to find fault with. Where I expected two opposite and unalterably antagonistic positions, I found common ground between what I already accepted as worthy information and the new information received. I am richer.
So here I am, begging you to be indecisive. Asking you to open your mind to new information, to hear what both sides have to say, to think before coming to a decision. How hard is that to do? And what are the costs if you can’t?
And please remember there is no time limit on being accurate. Changing your mind is a good thing if you find better information, and sometimes it takes a while. You are under no obligation to rush to a conclusion or to remain faithful to one you begin to question.
I like to use percentages to describe how committed I am to an issue. My percentages are usually based on how many good arguments I hear on each side and how much they make sense. That way I can take a position and argue it without missing the information being used on the other side.
One last thing. Anyone that can’t be critical of their own side is either lazy or brainwashed. But I’m willing to listen if you disagree.