Where to find me online

Friday, September 7, 2012

How do we change how someone else thinks?

Some people, when they hear you say something they do not agree with, will insist that you document all your assertions and come up with a compelling proof in a point by point compelling argument. If you fail to do this to their satisfaction they feel fully justified in dismissing you and your ideas. This is so true when discussing theology, politics or getting down to the bottom of a dispute or settling a personal grievance.

I have found that when anyone attempts to do this (document and explain detail by detail), it always gets bogged down in details, gets to where no one can ever see the forest for the trees unless they already see them, and only results in more robust spin leaving both people and their opinions even more divided.

Speaking in summary is therefore, strange as it may seem, the only way to get to the point. And the point sits their unproven and uncompelling. Discussing details at that point helps us to merely somewhat appreciate how the point was reached. I have come to the opinion that the strategy of a detailed point by point discussion not only fails but the failure of it then also degenerates into a dishonest habit for avoiding responsible thinking. We enable ourselves and others to use the failure of such a strategy as the detailed sequential argument, that we can take advantage of failure and justify digging in our cognitive stubbornness.

A solid well expressed sequential argument is a useful tool, but only for those interested in understanding how another thinks without necessarily having any interest in being convinced, without having any concern with defending a contrary point of view. It is also useful to those who are already convinced of an opinion but wish to sharpen their understanding of how it can coherently be grasped.

But here is the truth about how opinions are formed in the real world. All of us have gotten to our perspective as the result of a lengthy history in developing it in a process of confusion and various possible explanations that eventually gel into some form of coherence and then we settle into an opinion. It is RARE that it is by looking at the details in a sequential argument for something we do not agree with and then arriving at the proper change in thinking through what we see as a compelling conclusion. Anyone who claims they come to an opinion that way on a regular basis is either naive, not self-aware, or they are simply not being honest with themselves.

So in spite of how wonderful the idea seems on the surface, that approach is actually synthetic and contrary to our nature and regular routine as developing humans. This is why my approach when expressing my unconventional views has been to speak in generalities, and then to also offer a few details. I can give even more details when asked in a friendly and respectful manner. But I then refuse to be the one whose responsibility it is to convince someone of my perspective.

How another person thinks is THEIR responsibility and how they dismiss or reconsider what I have to say is THEIR responsibility. There is a sense in which it is not my problem and I only injure a person's ability to truly think things through for themselves by trying to do their thinking for them. Only you can go through the process that could possibly result in changing how you think. The generalities that I or others speak in can alert you to the fact that there are others who think differently than you do and the few details they give you can give you a few pieces of information that actually feel as if they are out of context from within your own point of view.

This might create in you some dissonance and that is sufficient for now. It then becomes your responsibility to decide if this is an issue worth your time to reconsider ON YOUR OWN. And if you decide to reconsider things you might inquire about ongoing details and eventually in time arrive at a new way of seeing things. You might after an honest and thorough consideration change your views some but still disagree with what you had considered. Or you might decide the issue is unworthy of your genuine consideration and move along. Hopefully if you do that, you will also be honest about the fact that you did not really sufficiently explore the idea so as to be able to definitively dismiss it.

Our confusion about how we and other people actually arrive at conclusions is part of why we end up talking in circles and resorting to mere spin. The other reason is that since people do not take responsibility for their own thinking and try to think for you, this means that talking in circles is as far as we can take it. When this happens it represents a breakdown in honest conversation.

Give honesty a chance, be prepared to enter every phase of your life with various paradigm shifts. Don't get stuck in defending various fixed beliefs that were embraced by a younger less experienced you.

No comments:

Post a Comment