The people I meet have a lot of different ideas about a lot of different things. I agree with some of them and disagree with others, but I do my best to at least try to understand their point of view.
I don’t necessarily always go as far as to create a steel man argument on their behalf, but showing a bit of empathy can help me much better understand their viewpoint. Even as I try to understand their perspective, it doesn’t mean that I need to accept it.
This came up while I was reading “The Art of Possibility“, where they said:
“Being present to the way things are is not the same as accepting things as they are”
You really could take that two different ways, both of which can be good things.
- You can do what I suggested above and simply try to understand the other point of view.
- You can be more aggressive and fight for making a change where you see it might be necessary.
It also leads a bit toward The Serenity Prayer, which we’ve all heard many times but perhaps never really thought about:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
You can’t gain that serenity until you really understand the world around you and where other viewpoints are coming from. If you just close your eyes and assume that “those people are all idiots”, you’ll never gain the necessary empathy to take the right path. “They” might indeed be idiots, but there’s always a chance that you’re wrong instead.
The idea of really understanding multiple viewpoints is something I talked about a few months ago (“Integrated Complexity“) and it’s a great first step if you want to walk an issue through the logic of the Serenity Prayer.