Uncomfortable Conversations Are The Only Path To Unity

I decided you could wait another couple of days for me to cover the latest foreclosure statistics because every so often I see something so stupid I feel compelled to post about it even though it has nothing to do with real estate. It turns out that today’s topic has been bugging me for quite a while but it really came to head during the last year of this election cycle and I have a feeling it’s not going to get any better any time soon: Increasingly, people don’t want anything to do with people with whom they disagree.
I have been shocked at what I have personally witnessed or heard about in the last year. People walking out of the room in the middle of a discussion, unfriending people on Facebook, ending friendships, threatening to hit someone, or just shutting up because they are afraid to speak their mind. Another go-to strategy is to put someone in a box – e.g. label them a libtard or a redneck – and then use that as an excuse to dismiss everything they say. Since when did any of this become desirable or acceptable behavior?
I can’t be certain what drives this behavior but I suspect it’s part confirmation bias. I’ve noticed with great regularity that people tend to associate with people who share their background and beliefs. You can see it in who they are friends with on Facebook and they love arguing with people that agree with them. Uhhhh…that’s an argument?
I love jumping into those discussions and mixing things up – regardless of whether I actually agree with the participants or not. And because I have a pretty good mix of friends at both ends of the political spectrum I can cross pollinate ideas. Maybe I love it a bit too much but it sure makes life more interesting and it sharpens the mind.
Beyond confirmation bias though I think there are other factors that explain what’s going on. For one, many find it too uncomfortable arguing about social or economic issues – either they have too high an emotional stake in the issue or they feel like they are under attack. In my opinion that’s all the more reason to engage someone who doesn’t agree with you.
And I think there is one other factor that explains what is going on here. People’s beliefs are often not grounded in solid logic or a firm grasp of the facts. A sure fire way to elicit one of those reactions I mentioned above is to point out the holes in someone’s belief system. When they don’t have a strong response they simply shut down the discussion.
The country seems to be more divided now than I’ve seen it since the 60s so I was heartened on Wednesday when the 3 people with the highest stakes in this election all called for unity. We certainly need congress to reach across the aisle and work together but frankly I’m more concerned about whether or not the American people can reach across the aisle right now. If congress doesn’t play nice they can be replaced. We can’t replace the American people and as long as we are divided it’s pretty much a certainty that congress will be divided.
So, in case it’s not obvious, shutting down dialogue pretty much ensures that divisions remain. Many people are outraged that people who disagree with them even exist but how are they going to change others’ minds if they’re not engaging with them? Or do they honestly think they will just disappear or wake up one morning and see the light?
While thinking about this blog post I stumbled on this Ted talk that I thought was really pertinent. The speaker talks about the need for challenging our own and others’ thinking. Because she has a British accent she has a lot more credibility than I do and she is far more articulate than I. The talk is just shy of 13 minutes long and her setup is about 4 – 5 minutes long so be patient.

Therefore, if you find yourself tempted to separate yourself from someone with whom you violently disagree ask yourself what’s driving that urge. If you’re getting that upset about the disagreement then you must be pretty confident in your belief, correct? Then you should be able to argue your position. And if you can’t then just maybe you should consider changing your own point of view.
We live in really interesting times. Embrace it.
Gary Lucido is the President of Lucid Realty, the Chicago area’s full service discount real estate brokerage. If you want to keep up to date on the Chicago real estate market, get an insider’s view of the seamy underbelly of the real estate industry, or you just think he’s the next Kurt Vonnegut you can Subscribe to Getting Real by Email using the form below. Please be sure to verify your email address when you receive the verification notice.

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