The last few months have been interesting to say the least. I have witnessed the most divisive political landscape in my lifetime. There are a few things that I have learned, and the point of this post is not to talk about my own personal political views. It is more of an observation I have made while reading several of the books I have summarized. The 7 Habits really spelled it out for me and made me realize this.
Over the past several months of political campaigns and the impact of social media on how the world views politics, I made a couple of realizations:
- We appear to be extremely divided in our political views. Everyone seems to have an opinion, and 100% sure of that opinion. It is difficult to even have a coherent conversation with someone that voted differently than you because…
- According to my Facebook feed or the comment sections on any news article, there are two types of people in the world:
- Bleeding heart liberals that are a bunch of entitled sore-loser crybabies
- Corrupt monsters that want to take away human rights, deny science, destroy the environment.
- It is easy to reduce politics to such simplicity, however this dichotomy is probably further from the truth than you may think. There are also echo-chambers that people yell their political views into, blocking anyone that opposes their views.
- Nobody is actually communicating. We do not know how to effectively communicate when there are differences in our beliefs. People jump straight to incendiary comments that piss the other side off and put them on the defensive. In order to bridge the gap, we need to start listening: understand the other side’s points, consider them thoughtfully, and help them understand your viewpoint. You do not have to agree with one another, but when you simplify people you tend to make unfounded assumptions. One observation is that people will quickly resort to name calling, demeaning, and personal attacks. Just as bad, people will just post some opinion piece from the internet and write something like “wow”
- Most people are really not well educated on the issues at hand. Almost all news organizations have an angle, or bias. We also tend to parrot back what we hear in our echo-chambers. And this is typically with biased and/or incomplete information. I am guilty of this as well. While I try to look at issues objectively, it is easy to get caught up in a compelling argument even if it falls into some form of logical fallacy.
- People are not typically well educated on the issues of their candidate. You will often see political pundits of both sides interview people on issues in the street, or a college campus, or catching people before they go to vote. They will ask people about the merits of (for example) Obamacare vs. the Affordable Care Act – with people saying one is terrible, the other would be much better… How many of the people having heated arguments over their candidate have been on their candidate’s website and the opposing candidate’s website to even make an educated statement? If I had to guess it wouldn’t be most.
- From the people I have talked to, the majority of people are not as far apart as they politically think they are.
This is just an opinion post. The point is to step back and say “how can I understand the other side better?”; “why do I believe so strongly in what I believe”; “what are the merits of the other side? Do I agree with them? Do I at least understand the other side’s points?”. In the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion the author Cialdini discussed consistency as a major influence. As a defense mechanism, we are programmed to try and maintain consistency with decisions we have made in the past. This is why you see people double down when it might not always make logical sense. They are trying to stay consistent with prior actions.
So what are we to do? My suggestion is to try and understand the other side. Go in with an open mind and they will hopefully return the favor. Understanding the other party doesn’t mean that you necessarily agree. This is discussed in 7 Habits, Getting to Yes, and several other books on personal interactions.
This is an interesting political environment. Tension is extremely high. Especially with the internet, it is easy to stop treating people like human beings, but it goes both ways and someone needs to step up.