A new perspective
ONE of the great gifts my parents gave me was the skill of debating.
I learnt how to breathe, speak in public (which is still rated as one of our greatest fears and sources of anxiety) and to think quickly and spontaneously. It also taught me to structure my thoughts and to take the opposing view of something I agreed with.
Debating taught me a skill I would know later in life as empathy: the ability to see the other side of the argument and to both understand it (maybe not agree with) and “feel” it.
Like many of you, I have been observing the debate – or more accurately, the guilt and shamed-based arguments around the current plebiscite. I also observe the “debate” at the political levels and I keep asking myself – what has happened to empathy? Why are many of our discussions around an “I win, you lose” attitude and coming from the “I am right, you are wrong” position? If we are unable to get outside of ourselves and see the other person’s position then there is no opportunity for growth or change – a fixed mindset or a fixed position on a situation doesn’t allow for any change – leading to arguments, isolation, loneliness and then possibly anxiety, depression and maybe even worse.
I watched my mother’s change in her lifetime and it’s only now I am understanding her journey. A simple example was her attitude to tattoos. She went from threatening the very life of her six children if any of us had even considered getting a tattoo to proudly describing to her friends the beauty and detail of her grandchild’s full-length tattoo sleeve – what an example of change, empathy, and personal growth.
So, how do you move from a “fixed mindset”?
The first requirement is being open minded that there are alternative views to your firmly-held beliefs. It’s then about liking yourself and feeling positive about yourself. Those people who have high self-esteem are more likely to be open minded. Then you must be prepared to forgive yourself. We all have fixed views on certain things. It may be as you question these views and attitudes, more information comes to light.
The next strategy is to prove yourself wrong. This is key and it’s about you proving yourself wrong – not others proving you wrong, as this may lead to you not being open to change as a result of pure stubbornness. On a piece of paper, on the left-hand side write down what you believe – eg “I believe climate change is real”. On the right-hand side of the page answer the question “what would prove you wrong”. Under this column write down what evidence or facts you would need to be exposed to challenge and disprove your belief. Then, seek that evidence! Another good strategy is to mix with people who have opposite beliefs and attitudes to you. It’s OK to change your opinion – there is no shame in that. The shame is in not changing your opinion based on overwhelming facts and real evidence.
Be open to other views and it may create a world of co-operation, collaboration, understanding and love you never thought possible. What a gift that would be.