I recently read a blog written by actor Richard Dreyfuss’ son, Harry Dreyfuss and it resonated so much with me that I knew I had to write a blog with my own commentary. Of course, life has been busy and I’m just now sitting down to formulate my thoughts.
The blog was Harry’s thoughts after the media uproar when his usually incredibly liberal-leaning father was seen at a Ted Cruz rally. For those who have been completely in the dark, Cruz is one of the more conservative candidates for the Republican nomination in the 2016 U.S. Presidential race.
Harry talked about how his dad was not there to support or to protest. He was there to learn. Harry then used that as a springboard into how important it is to truly listen to other people’s opinions. This is important for several reasons, the first being this:
“If you can’t stand to listen to an idea, it does not prove that you oppose it. Refusing to show interest in a different perspective should not serve as a badge of pride in your own ideas. It actually serves the exact opposite function. It proves that you don’t even understand your own opinion. If you can’t understand the argument you disagree with, then you don’t have the right to disagree with it with any authority, nor do you really have a grasp on what your own idea means in its context.”
How can I know I oppose something if I don’t have a clue what it’s really about? I admit, I can be in the camp of “I don’t have to listen to that candidate. I just know they’re wrong because of what I’ve heard they said.”
What if we actually listened to people we usually oppose? It’s foolish to decide we’re against something until we truly understand what that something is.
When I’ve tried this approach, I have usually had one of two things happen. I’ve either become even more convinced of my opinion, or I’ve found common ground with those whose opinions I usually oppose.
Take, for example, my friendship with a former co-worker Eleanor. I have her permission to talk about our friendship in this blog. We are total opposites when it comes to political and religious beliefs. Yet she’s one of the only people on earth I feel like I can approach with political discussions or questions.
I usually avoid discussing politics, in part because of professional ethics, but also because I tend to be a peacekeeper. But with Eleanor, we can have a calm discussion where we are careful to be respectful of each other and can better understand where the different “side” is coming from. I can go to her and say something like “can you please explain the liberal view on this?”
What I’ve come to find is that we often want the same things but have different beliefs about the best way to achieve that goal.
That leads me to the last portion of Harry’s blog, which I also I found profound:
“Exalt the ability to hold someone else’s belief in your mind for a moment. You might find we disagree on fewer points than you thought, or you might find that this other person is insane and I am the God of right and wrong. I think that sort of certainty is always insane, but arriving there after actually engaging with an opposing opinion is the closest you’ll ever come to being right.”
How hard is it to simply ask a person what they believe? And to listen? Try to look at things from their point of view?
This is true for many things in life, not just politics. Often when my husband and I will find that when we disagree on something, we have the same goal in mind. We are just coming at it from such different perspectives including our backgrounds and personalities, that it feels like we oppose each other. We can usually resolve conflict when we realize we are already on the same side.