A new per­spec­tive

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - News - DEN­NIS J HOIBERG The Re­silience Whis­perer

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.

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