Recently, I was in a situation where I could listen to a couple different conversations. Most of what was said, I strongly disagreed with. The conversations had a political slant but weren’t directly related to politics.
I stayed out of the fray and just listened. If you remember, I talked about my lack of interest in arguing any more in a column a few months ago.
But there was another reason I stayed silent. I read an opinion recently that said you should listen to people you disagree with. Not just to find flaws in their argument or ammunition to use against them later, but to see if there is common ground or a way to reach an understanding.
Last week was Independence Day. While I wrote that column, I was thinking about the U.S. Constitution and everything that went on between the Declaration of Independence and the passage of that document. There was a 15-and-a-half-year gap between the two events.
You often hear someone complain about their rights being violated -- usually when they want to say something outrageous and someone else tries to silence them. Here’s the thing, the First Amendment to the Constitution (my personal fav), the # 1 item on the Bill of Rights, only ensures that the government won’t stop you from saying whatever it is you want to say.
The second thing to remember about your rights is that while the government cannot impede those rights, that doesn’t mean you can say, or do, whatever you want and be free from consequences. Many a small business owner has regretted taking a divisive stand only to alienate half their potential customers.
Sometimes it works the other way, too. Chick-fil-A, of course, has taken some strong positions, but supporters of those positions have rallied to the food chain’s defense, making it one of the most popular in the country.
Everyone has the right to their opinion and to voice it loudly if they want to. Even if you think it is wrong-headed or idiotic or whatever else you want to call it.
Still, it can be a good idea to listen to those opinions from time to time to see if there is a nugget of truth or logic in them somewhere. Even if you don’t think there is, you can learn a lot about someone by the arguments they make and maybe understand how they came up with those opinions in the first place.
The political season is upon us. Don’t just dismiss the other side (whichever side you are on) with derisive names. Take the time to listen. Not to argue but make the effort to hear what they are saying. If nothing else, it should make your own arguments stronger.
But don’t look at me, I don’t have the energy to attempt to fix strangers. No matter how wrong I think they are.