Being open-minded to the opposition

(Originally published on 29/06/2020)

Can you recall the last time you had a conversation with someone who has completely different opinions on a topic? I bet it wasn’t a long time back. In fact, it’s highly likely that you had a disagreement with someone over something just last week.

It’s a well-known fact that we as humans can’t agree on very simple and trivial things such as whether to leave the toilet seat up or down, let alone other bigger things like how to go about solving world poverty or other significant issues.

Take Black Lives Matter for instance, the vast majority of us would agree that it’s a worthy cause and try to show our support in any way possible. However, there’s also a chunk of the population that carries a differing opinion on the movement for one reason or another.

For those of us in the first basket, it’s easy to come to a conclusion that those who disagree with the cause are racist and backward thinking. You might think it would be inconceivable that anyone could have any legitimate reason to oppose the cause. However, the reason most people come to that conclusion is because we as humans are naturally conditioned to give in to the fast and easy way of thinking which is also known as System 1.

Here’s a quick refresher on the two systems of thinking that were popularized by Daniel Kahneman in his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” for readers who are unfamiliar with the topic. You can also check out my review on this book and other similar ones here.

  • System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.
  • System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice, and concentration.

Our brains tend to make snap decisions using System 1 and oftentimes those decisions require a lot more thought and consideration. Therefore it would be detrimental if we use System 1 to address the issue about those in opposition of the BLM movement.

We give people little to no benefit of a doubt when we judge them using our System 1 in this scenario. We grab onto the easiest narrative, which could very well be the wrong one, available at the moment and associate it with what’s actually happening.

For instance, those that disagree might have been taken aback with concerns over looting and rioting. There’s a high likelihood that they’re either ignorant or that they misinterpreted the narrative when the issue first came to light. On top of that, seeing the destruction of shops and houses during protests just gives them another reason to confirm their biases for not supporting the cause. Therefore, these people never really got a chance to be convinced otherwise that what’s happening in front of their eyes is in fact a worthy cause.

“Ignorance breeds fear. Because we fear those things we do not understand. If we do not keep that fear in check; that fear, in turn, will breed hatred.

Because we hate those things that frighten us. If we do not keep that hatred in check; that hatred, in turn, will breed destruction.” – Daryl Davis

I would highly recommend this incredibly powerful Ted Talk given by Daryl Davis on his journey to trying to understand the logic and opinions of the people behind KKK, and their hatred towards those that they see as different and inferior.

We’re guilty of judging people wrong the same way they’re guilty of doing the same to us. So, it’s important for us to step back and listen to others’ opinions before we make judgement about them, otherwise it would turn into a vicious cycle of accusation and name calling.

This article is just a recurring thought that’s been lingering in my head for the past few weeks. I would also like to add that I’m not trying to protect anyone by asking you to think about the dilemma some people on the opposite end might be going through.

I would love to hear from you if you have disagreements with me on this topic or any other topics.

Here’s to not falling victim to fast thinking!

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