The song “No One Is Alone,” from the musical Into the Woods, always gives me chills. Last year when my daughter was learning it in her voice class, I helped her work through some of the words. While the whole musical has a dark tone that I find comes too close to nihilism, in the context of that darkness, I find this part deeply moving:
One another’s terrible mistakes
Witches can be right, giants can be good
You decide what’s right, you decide what’s good
Someone is on your side
Someone else is not
While we’re seeing our side
Maybe we forgot, they are not alone
No one is alone.
Sometimes the other side really is dumb. But sometimes, our side is too.
Treating people who disagree with you as if they are irrational creatures driven by irrational passions (such as fear, greed, lust, envy, self-righteousness, etc.) will win you points in your own echo chamber.
Treating people who disagree with you as if they are rational human beings is a sign of humility and intelligence.
A dare for the next time you’re in discussion with someone you disagree with: Don’t try to “win.” Don’t try to “convince” anyone of your viewpoint. Don’t score points by mocking them to your peers. Instead try to “lose.” Hear them out. Ask them to convince you and mean it. No one is going to tell your environmentalist friends that you merely asked follow up questions after your brother made his pro-fracking case.
Or, the next time you feel compelled to share a link on social media about current events, ask yourself why you are doing it. Is it because that link brings to light information you hadn’t considered? Or does it confirm your world view, reminding your circle of intellectual teammates that you’re not on the Other Side?
I implore you to seek out your opposite. When you hear someone cite “facts” that don’t support your viewpoint don’t think “that can’t be true!” Instead consider, “Hm, maybe that person is right? I should look into this.” –Sean Blanda, Medium