In days of old, the jester was one of few people who could speak truth to the king without fear of repercussion. In days of recent, Sadam Hussein famously literally shot the messenger. Scratch that. Messengers. It got to a point where people feared giving him any bad news, so they didn’t! When truth becomes scarce, scary times are near.
Often things that are most important for us to hear are inconvenient truths. Inconvenient truths bear severe negative consequences if behavior changes don’t occur. This is why the First Amendment is such a powerful thing. If we cannot speak of issues, we handicap our ability to resolve them. The truth doesn’t care whether or not you share it. It will go about its day regardless of your feelings.
Dissent is the highest form of patriotism. — Howard Zinn
Today, we lionize comics who speak jokes deemed offensive. We use online mobs and the court of public opinion to stifle free speech. For example, few people predicted Donald Trump to win the 2016 election. We all know the result. Trump’s opponents vigorously suppressed opposition. In doing so, they dealt themselves a tremendous blow. They deprived themselves of the ability to change people’s minds and to truly understand the other side. If the objective during an election is to rouse the folks who support you, change the minds of those who disagree, and mobilize the ambivalent, they removed two of those avenues.
Silencing the voices of those who disagree with you stifles your growth and development.
Sadly, in today’s climate of discourse, the norm trends towards name-calling and shaming. How often do you hear an opposing view voiced, followed by things like “gee, I don’t understand that, can you help me understand?” or, “that seems confusing to me, can you elaborate?” These are the four-leaf clovers of public discourse. When we engage in this way, we can understand better. When we understand better, it becomes easier to present our case and then become understood by whomever we are having a dialogue with.
If you want to change someone’s mind on a topic, calling them a bigot is a surefire way to make them dig in further and put on gun muffs to block you out.
Pay close attention to people who consciously say things that would damage their reputation. That type of Skin in the Game is a powerful signaling mechanism. It signals that whatever is being said is important enough that the sayer is willing to experience negative consequences to bring forth what they believe.
When someone says something that produces a noticeable change in affect within you, notice it. This is a learning opportunity! Once you have awareness and aren’t completely consumed by it, engage with them. Worst case, you’ll have a better idea of where they are coming from even if you choose to disagree.