Recently, I saw a clip from Fox News that got me to thinking about how many of us now engage conversations not to understand one another but to convince or to show that we are “right”. The clip was of a conversation between Bill Nye (the “Science Guy”) and a Fox News commentator whose name I don’t recall. The commentator asked questions about climate change and each time Bill responded the commentator remained silent for no more than six seconds before beginning to talk over Bill and challenge his responses.
What this brought to mind was the fact that we seem, as a culture, to have lost our desire to understand each other and, instead, we fight to be right or to convince the other person that they are wrong. One of our best friends is curiosity, as I mention at the end of just about every one of these experiments in conscious living, as curiosity opens us to our environment and makes us more likely to be able to receive new information and experience.
For this week’s experiment, I invite you to explore more deeply your relationship with curiosity, and the degree of your openness to understanding the positions of people with whom you fundamentally disagree. As I’m sure I’ve written before, a democracy depends on diversity and if we lose the ability to understand people who have different beliefs, lifestyles, and backgrounds from ours, we lose one of the fundamental underpinnings of a democratic society.
As you play with understanding people with whom you disagree, notice what happens in your body as you listen to them, what thoughts move through your awareness, what emotional responses you have. See what happens if you keep calling curiosity into the foreground of your awareness, as you allow any reactive responses to slip into the background.
As is true with all these experiments, remember that curiosity is your most important companion along the way. And, it’s always helpful to remember to pat judgments on the head as they arise, move through, and move on. Learning to identify thoughts that represent activation versus thoughts that represent information is very helpful, too. Many of our judgments and self-talk are really more about feeling vulnerable, threatened in some way, or otherwise activated, than they are carriers of information that’s actually useful.