One thing I have been doing more and more often is exposing myself to viewpoints that are the polar opposite of my existing beliefs. While challenging, and often a hit to my personal ego, I find this exercise to be immensely valuable for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, understanding the other side is perhaps the single best way to strengthen your own argument.
I learned this lesson via a philosophy class I took about “present moral problems.” In it, we had to write in-class essays under the following (simplified) format:
- make and defend your point
- come up with 3 objections to your point
- say why those objections are invalid
This is the perfect court-room scenario, as you can imagine anything you say has the opportunity (and will be) refuted by any wise and pragmatic reader.
Though, I think this framework may be able to strengthened and expanded upon under the following idea:
- you should spend a lot of time coming up with objections to your point.
It is very easy to put objections that you yourself came up with while writing your own argument. Those are easy arguments to quell – and really biased given your viewpoint.
Rather, be the ultimate truth-seeker. Find the most elaborate, complex and challenging viewpoints to understand.
I listen to podcasts with views that I completely disagree about. But at least I am beginning to understand the other side – their reasonings, their bias, their impetus, why they do what they do.
I take-away interesting anecdotes that help me mold my own opinion. And rather than have an opinion locked away in a bubble – my thoughts encompass not only my own side, but also the other.
This is not only true in writing. In fact, in company-building this is an especially important exercise (fundraising, solving customer pain-points). Far too often, I find, I mold into a certain type of character in which I cannot escape my ego to see the “real truth.” This is a dangerous behavior – one proliferated throughout society – in which the “best points” do not always win.
To be smart, is to be open-minded. I want conviction. But I want to know when I am wrong, too.