Open Mindedness- article

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Fran, Sep 3, 2009.

  1. Fran

    Fran Former desparate mom

    I read this article this morning and had to ask myself if I keep an open mind? I tend to lean to the right on some things and to the left on others which is why I don't line up with any one group. I'm not referring to politics which is also part of the equation but just as a life policy. Am I making sure I'm hearing all sides of the story and not just making decisions influenced by someone's or anyone's,for that matter, agenda?

    There does seem to be a tendency to see other human beings as "them". Different than us. It's not true. They are just like us in a different living situations. We would be just like them if we switched shoes and walked their path.

    Anyhow, this gave me pause as I was getting ready for my day. It's from CNN

    SAN ANTONIO, Texas (CNN) -- As people shout over each other and tune out diverging views in town hall meetings, the health care debate is proving to be symptomatic of a major ailment threatening our nation:
    A contagious culture of closed-mindedness threatens to suffocate our progress as a society.
    Why has it become so difficult to even consider changing our minds about important issues?
    Here's my diagnosis.
    Increasingly, the willingness to change one's position on political issues has been misread as a mark of weakness rather than a product of attentive listening and careful deliberation.
    During the 2004 Presidential campaign, the successful branding of John Kerry as a flip-flopper doomed his bid. Fear of "flip-flopper syndrome" is apparently catching like the flu, because today politicians are not alone in their determination to adhere to partisan positions despite the changing needs of our nation.
    Nearly everyone's so reluctant to appear wishy-washy that they stand firm even when the evidence is against their views.
    Three factors exacerbate this paralysis by lack of analysis: labels, lifestyles and listening.

    First, the labels ascribed to many potential policy tools render sensible options taboo, loading what could be rational, economic or social measures with moral baggage. This narrows our choices, hemming in policy makers.
    Any proposal including the words "government-run" elicits cries of "socialism" and "communism." Any argument invoking the words "God" or "moral" sparks accusations of "right-wing extremism," "facism," or "Bible-thumping." Instead of listening to each other's ideas, we spot the warning label and run the other way.
    Second, our lifestyles favor knee-jerk reactions. The way we think, work and live in the Digital Age demands we quickly categorize information without investing time into rich interaction, research and understanding.
    We're hesitant to ask questions because we don't have time to listen to the long, complicated answers that might follow. And we lack the time to fact-check competing claims. In our haste, it's easier to echo our party's position than drill down, questioning whether party leaders are motivated by our best interests or the best interests of their biggest contributors.
    Third, we tend to listen only to like-minded opinions as media fragmentation encourages us to filter out varying perspectives. If you're a liberal, you avoid FOX News. If you're a conservative you revile MSNBC. The dynamic is even more pronounced online, where a niche media source can be found for any outlook.
    This silences the opportunity for meaningful dialogue and deliberation that might lead to reformulating positions, forging sustainable compromises, and developing consensus crucial to moving our nation forward on complex issues.
    So how can we overcome this challenge, starting with the health care debate? How do we open our minds to the possibility that we could actually learn from somebody else? Here's my prescription.
    For starters, we should eschew the notion that changing our minds is a character flaw. To the contrary, experts believe it's a manifestation of higher intelligence. Renowned psychologist Stuart Sutherland wrote in "Irrationality," his seminal 1992 book: "The willingness to change one's mind in the light of new evidence is a sign of rationality not weakness."
    To further free our minds, we should aggressively treat the three Ls:
    Let's lose the labels: from "flip-flopper" to "commie," from "fear-monger" to "right-wing nut job." Trash the diatribe; mull the ideas.
    Let's engage in some constructive lifestyle management, slowing down to ponder -- and make independent decisions -- as enlightened people. We cannot allow the technological evolution to rob us of the intellectual strides of the American Revolution.
    We must value the art of listening, reflection, comparative analysis, and civil discourse if we're to make the most of our democracy. In the process, we should signal to leaders that we're willing to expand our horizons beyond party lines. Maybe they'll get in front of our parade, collaborating for a change.
    Let's request a second opinion and listen to each other. Switch channels. Visit different Web sites. Read a newspaper, while we can still find one. How about stepping into a town hall with an open mind, prepared to converse with people hailing from diverse circumstances? A range of perspectives enriches our viewpoint, empowering us to craft nuanced responses to complex situations.
    Ultimately, we must stop thinking that the only thing to think is what we've thought all along. As we learn more about multifaceted matters, our positions should evolve accordingly. Let's accept that it's OK to change your minds.
    In the end, opening our minds can only enhance the prognosis for our most cherished patient: America.
    The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rudy Ruiz.

    Disclaimer: this is not meant as a political commentary but as a self reflecting human commentary about myself.
  2. maril

    maril New Member

    Thought-provoking and interesting. I believe it is beneficial to be open to looking at the big picture and also have encouraged my kids to do so; aim to become informed; shoot for well rounded.
  3. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Thanks for sharing this, Fran. I agree that our society is too impatient to consider all the facts and often resorts to a knee-jerk solution for some of the problems we're facing today. It's very good advice to slow down a bit and consider both sides of an issue, because it's not always a black and white dichotomy... there's often a lot of overlap.
  4. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    Rushing...only read part for now.
    Great topic...looks very good.
    Thank you.
    printed and will read later!
  5. muttmeister

    muttmeister Well-Known Member

    I think this is a HUGE problem in our society right now. When somebody starts to speak, they often get shouted down before they even get to finish their thought. I have to admit to being a left-of-center liberal but I know for a fact that I have heard a lot of good ideas and thoughtful commentary from people who are right-of-center. We have a tendency to catagorize people according to who they are or who we think they are instead of listening to find out what their ideas are.

    This ties in with something I've been thinking a lot about lately and that is that the word "compromise" has become a dirty word to a lot of people on both the right and the left. As somebody who taught American history I know that our country was founded on the idea that opposing sides would compromise. When there was disagreement, the founding fathers set up a system where compromise would take place; neither side would get everything they wanted but both sides would get part of what they wanted. That worked and served us well for over 200 years but, lately, be have an all-or-nothing attitude and that is why our system IS NOT WORKING for either side right now. We need to make it clear to our elected representatives that compromise is not a bad thing. Yes, many of us do not want to compromise on our high moral principles but when it comes to making policy, when we don't agree, it is the only way to move forward. Without compromise we will come to a grinding halt. Why can't "they" see this?
  6. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Very interesting. Gives me pause to stop and think.
  7. Fran,

    Thanks for posting this thoughtful article. I have been very troubled by the powerful emotions expressed during this time of town hall meetings in our country. I spend a big part of my work days as a mediator between employer/insurers and injured workers in the Workers' Compensation system in my state. I have learned much personally over the years as I have observed the process of mediation and attempted compromise. When the parties in my mediations refuse to compromise, everyone loses. I can usually predict, by now, who will compromise and who will not. Willingness to listen to others is a big part of this. It's always a good day for me, when parties can reach agreement that everyone is comfortable with.

    I am very concerned that our country's current atmosphere is one of refusal to listen and compromise. I can only hope that our leadership can continually place that ideal out to our population as a possible solution to our current situation - and remind us all of our possibilities to work together!