Written by: Beau DeCourcy
We’ve all met that person. He wouldn’t shut up at dinner, had an answer for everything, and laughed at your “ignorant” question or point of view. Despite trying to tolerate him, you couldn’t wait until he left the room so you could denounce his rhetoric with his other verbally assassinated victims that surround you. He was the definition of an ‘ass’. And we’re all very lucky we are not like him because our views are important, correct, and worth “enlightening” others with. Wait… Is it possible we all have been an ass before? Without a doubt, yes!
Egos are forces to be reckoned with. They actually allow us to truly believe we understand what is right and what is wrong. Sometimes egos make us continue our crusade even when we know we are wrong. Don’t be that guy/girl anymore. It isn’t easy, I know, because I have been that guy; willing to debate for hours “knowing” I was right. But I have learned, at least as far as I know, we are more likely to look for excuses rather than answers.
Google can prove any point right or wrong. Try it sometime. It’s quite amazing and scary when “Dr. Google” can offer an abundance of evidence that a Twinkie diet is healthy, the earth could very well be flat, and that aliens are our creators. This means that we can find “evidence” to support anything we choose to believe. There is a lot of bad science out there, so it’s very important you are not looking to prove yourself right. Learning to question and research methodically and with as little bias as possible is an important skill that we should develop.
Engaging in a mutual conversation is difficult when you are unable to disconnect from your beliefs, for even a moment, to truly listen to or read an opposing idea. We get angry very easily when someone believes something different and we take their belief as a personal insult. It’s hard not to feel attacked by an opposing idea. But these feelings show that you could be just as biased as they are. Listen, really listen to them. Open up your body to them and do not cringe. Control your breathing, relax, and disconnect from your dogma. Don’t be afraid to be changed a little by them. Change is growth, and anger, ignorance, and fear all have the power to stagnate positive growth.
Please do me a favor today: think of that one topic that you will never compromise on and that you feel defines you as a person-then find and read the opposing view. Do this alone and recognize how it makes you feel. You may notice your body physically tries to resist it by tightening up, increasing your heart-rate and breathing; the same changes you’ll experience in a fight or flight response. This is your primitive brain taking over. A brain designed to fight and resist any threat. How can we learn from each other if we react this way? Practice avoiding this response by relaxing, opening up and engaging your neocortex. It’s ok, you are not betraying yourself by doing this, you’re growing. Most of the time your views will not change, but sometimes they will, and you’ll be better off no matter what happens.
Step outside your primitive brain and recognize reality is subject to context, and there are far more things you don’t know than you do. Don’t be that person who looks for excuses just to be right. And please do not construct your own reality out of ‘facts’ from resources you know only will support your beliefs. Philosophy and science are not team sports: unfortunately, many of us did not get that memo.