original picture taken from huffpost.com
Think back on a time when you came to have an eureka moment. Maybe you were reading a book, listening to a keynote presentation, watching a video or having a conversation with a close friend. In the midst of that experience, something hits you. Maybe it was a simple comment, some profound truth or it all finally clicked. Nonetheless, it made you think: "Wait! There might be something to this." As you start to dig deeper or listen further, your eyes are opened to a deeper truth/reality that you had not fully considered. We all have these moments in our lives. When we learn something new, grow deeper in something we have held, become challenged in a previous idea we held or simply been shown how our current held view was wrong. If we never experienced this kind of things, we would never actually grow. If we look back on our lives and think of who we were 2, 5, 10 years ago, we can see how are or views evolved over time. And if we are going to be honest with ourselves, we would expect that in 2, 5, 10 years from now, we will continue to grow and evolve in our beliefs, views and perspectives. What fascinates me though is how it almost seems as though people forget that these experiences happened in their lives when they dialogue about their current held beliefs and views.
Let me set up a scenario to drive this home. Imagine you are on-line discussing a debated topic, when someone begins to argue his view. So far so good. But all of a sudden, the conversation goes from a friendly banter about differing views, and quickly digresses to a heated debate and both sides are not willing to budge on their position and in some cases slander ensues. Sound familiar? We see this kind of thing everywhere. What is more interesting is more times than not, when I press people like this on the certainty of their position, they are quick to concede that, "of course I could be wrong." So why is it that when in the midst of an actual dialogue is this reality not kept in tension or at the forefromt of our minds?
What would happen if when we interact with someone we disagree with that we didn't simply state they are wrong and proceed to exclaim our point of view, but recognize the perspective of where they are coming from and show how you see it differently and why you come to the conclusion you come to. In so doing, we are not forfeiting our position of understanding, but simply recognizing the reality that most things can be seen from multiple differing views.
Let me illustrate it like this. There has been many times when my wife and I are sharing a story or experience we shared to friends of ours, and we find ourselves stopping each other in mid sentence saying, "Honey, that isn't how that happened." Maybe you know exactly what i am talking about. This happens because of our perception. The details and things I focused on, the things I saw and remembered and the perception I had of the experience will in many cases be quite different then what someone else in that exact same experience will remember, see and focus on. Life is rarely as mathematically accurate as we would like it to be. We are shaped by so many factors, experiences, truths, that no one can honestly claim a clinically pure perception and for many, including myself, that truth can be frustrating.
Let me be clear. I am not advocating for relativity or that we should never be confident or even fight to voice the things we see as true or have value. Any movement of change demands someone to step up and speak. We see these people all throughout history, willing to take a stand against tyranny, for change, for freedom and for truth. If such people did not have the courage to speak, stand and fight, I could only imagine what kind of world we live in. But this is not what I am speaking about. It isn't about if we should have confidence in our beliefs or that we should fight for those convictions, but in this, we need to realize we are all both teachers and learners in life and need to be willing and able to play both parts and take a position in both seats.
This is all about intellectual honesty, that we are all on a journey, and as stated above, constantly evolving and growing. This means we are teaching and learning, leading and following, speaking and listening, challenging and being challenged. I wonder, if we shifted our focus further away from trying to prove others wrong and convincing them of our evolving views, as though it was foolish to believe anything else, and instead took the position of sharing something to be seriously considered, because we see value and truth in it and could be something to what we hold true, while also willing to listen, . Would our efforts of dialogue be more effective? Maybe if we were conscience of the reality that the very thing we were arguing to defend, we could very likely change our view on 2, 5 ,10 years from now. That, just maybe, the things we so deeply believe, could possibly be wrong.
Again, I am not speaking about relativity, doubting our beliefs or values, abandoning deep rooted conviction or dialoguing without confidence as we should be confident in the things we hold to be true, until shown otherwise. But, ultimately, this is about a shift towards a posture of humility in how we dialogue. I have said before: If we were to spend as much time in crafting how and why we say what we do as much as what we actually say, I believe dialogue would become much more healthy and helpful.
Let us make sure that our manner in how we dialogue does not simply come off as intellectual superiority and utter certainty, simply wishing to make our point, claiming the ultimate position of teacher and not communicating that we also hold the position and view ourselves as a learner as well. Maybe in this space, we could have healthy and helpful dialogue that could bring about real change in our lives and the lives of the people we interact with.
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