By Jason Menard
Why is it important to listen to all sides of a discussion? Because good ideas know no bounds.
The other day I discussed how certain schoolyard-eque behaviours on Twitter can negatively impact the user experience. I focused on the how it happens – and here’s the “why” it is so important to respectfully engage people from all sides of the social and political spectrum.
First off, though, it’s important to note that this is not strictly a Twitter issue. Today’s society puts a premium on pomp and bombast – the prevailing attitude seems to be that one’s volume is directly proportionate to the validity of one’s argument. So, instead of respectfully discussing and debating the merits of an idea, we end up with shouting matches – both real and virtual.
But let’s face it, it makes for better entertainment. People don’t want to tune into a group of people calmly discussing an idea’s merits and building upon it through analysis and proof. It’s much more exciting to watch people shouting outrageous comments – often without any grounding in fact – at each other.
We see it in sports, where analysts are often hired for their ability to be outrageous instead of their ability to provide perspective. We hear it on radio, where shock jocks are now no longer shocking – their brand of bombastic pseudo-journalism may not be the norm, but it’s familiar enough to no longer be the exception. And we see it on TV, in anything from courtroom shows to whatever they classify MTV programming as. Calmly coming to a resolution is ratings’ suicide. Flipping tables, throwing stuff, and shouting keeps the eyes glued to the TV.
Personally, I place much of the blame on politicians. The Theatre of Politics is an increasingly accurate description, as boorish behaviour, grandstanding ploys, and shouting down one’s opposition are the norm. It’s a disgraceful display from our so-called leaders – and those behaviours filter down into our day-to-day lives.
Here’s where that behaviour hurts: good ideas don’t come from any one source. No one political ideology or social perspective has the monopoly on common senses. And by cocooning yourself in an environment exclusively comprised of like-minded people or dismissing others outright simply because of their political affiliation, religious inclination, or societal beliefs you run the risk of missing out on an opportunity to learn and grow.
But, sadly, that’s what we do each and every day. We dismiss ideas based not on their own merit, but rather because of where they came from. If someone comes up with the perfect economic policy for this country, should it matter if it’s PC, NDP, or Liberal? If someone has an idea to make the City of London a better place to live, why do some try to shoot down the concept based solely on the political/social leanings of the presenter instead of examining it on its own merits? Hell, I’d be willing to listen to someone coming forth with proof of the cure for cancer – even if that person was Hitler himself.
When did “being right” supersede “making things better”?
I’d like to think we get a better, more well-rounded, view of an issue if we look at it from all sides and all perspectives. Sure, you could draw a picture using one colour and get your point across; but it’s when you add shading, other colours, and perspective to that same picture that you develop a sense of depth.
Personally, I strive for a deeper understanding of the world around me. That means listening to people who may hold opposing views from my own. But instead of dismissing them outright, isn’t it better to listen to what they have to say – and not only challenge their opinions, but use their beliefs to challenge your own?
That’s the underlying message of education. The base curriculum is only the start of understanding the learning process. You go to school to learn how to learn — and that ability carries you all through your life.
Listening only to those who share similar views and automatically diminishing the content of opposing views based solely on the source undermines our abilities to learn and grow.
Conflict may grow ratings; but respect helps us grow as a society. The latter may not be as entertaining, but it’s certainly far more enriching.