136. A different way of debating.

My wife, Gimalle and I were out for dinner this past weekend with two other couples.

We have a federal election looming and the topic of discussion naturally turned to politics. By the strangest of coincidences each of the three couples at the table firmly supported the platforms and ideologies of one of the three main parties contesting this election.

As is so often the case when opinions become confused with facts, it didn’t take long for voices to rise and for the first glimmers of anger to present themselves.

This continued for a few moments until one person, perhaps a little frustrated by the viewpoints of others at the table, strongly inferred that only a moron, idiot and complete fool could possibly find anything of value in a particular party’s platform.

This prompted a swift retort and it seemed that our pleasant evening of friendly discussion was about to come to an enraged halt.

Then I remembered the topic of this blog we have been discussing for the past two weeks – The Habit of Seeing All Sides – and immediately saw an opportunity to put to the test the use of this habit as discussed two weeks ago.

I interrupted the conversation (my wife Gimalle will confirm that I am a world-class interrupter and will also acknowledge that this was perhaps the only time she’s ever been pleased that I have this remarkable gift) and suggested, as we have previously discussed, that we rotate positions and we move our ideology and feelings of support to the couple to our right so that each couple could now present with as much passion fervour and enthusiasm as possible, their viewpoints as to why thepolitical party they had been strongly attacking a moment ago now presented the best possible choice for the future of our country.

At first my suggestion was met with dismissive cynicism but I can be persistent and insisted that we “give it a try.”

It was suggested that as this was my “stupid idea,” I kick off the conversation and so I was forced to present, with conviction and passion, my thoughts as to why I believed the one party whose ideology I personally believe can only serve to bring ruin should it ever be given the opportunity of running the country, was deserving of my vote.

And I did this in as convincing a way as I could.

I found myself digging deep into my own belief system and making strong statements that I believed in my very heart to be false and untrue. As I continued my two or three minute presentation I found myself softening in my views and criticism of that party’s platform and, while I know I will never live long enough to ever embrace those views, by the time was my turn was up and someone else took over the debate, I sensed a much stronger and deeper comprehension as to why how and why supporters of that party have come to believe in its platform.

As the couple to my right presented their viewpoints, while holding their noses and swallowing hard, I could see them too softening not so much in their core beliefs but in the degree of resentment or disagreement with opposing with viewpoints they had bitterly opposed just moments before.

Our debate lasted 30 to 40 minutes and interestingly, while no one’s opinions and beliefs had changed, all of us at the table had softened in our opposition and no longer felt that only morons, idiots and complete fools could have viewpoints different from theirs.

The Habit of Seeing All Sides, when used in this manner, truly forces us to open our minds to options and possibilities that we would previously have discarded.

When using this method one cannot practice cognitive dissonance – this feeling of discomfort we experience when trying to hold two opposing viewpoints at the same time.

Instead, The Habit of Seeing All Sides will raise our levels of empathy so that we can peacefully discuss rather than angrily argue.

Another benefit I experienced that evening was to realize that by utilizing the The Habit of Seeing All Sides, my conviction – my beliefs – were strengthened by forcing myself to argue against them and switching to this method of discussion not only prevented a disastrous end to the evening but actually assured us all of a thoroughly enjoyable one.

The next time you find yourself disagreeing with a friend, colleague or associate, suggest that you “switch sides” and take over to each other’s arguments just a few moments.

Not only will you be pleasantly surprised at your own perspective, you may find yourself enjoying a few unexpected laughs.

And that can never be a bad thing, can it?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

You can never be a bad thing, can it?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

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