“A new idea is first condemned as ridiculous and then dismissed as trivial, until finally, it becomes what everybody knows.” William James, 1879
For those who have accepted and endorsed the importance of sustainability and social responsibility issues like the importance of dealing with anthropogenic climate change, livable wages, the problems with waste etc., there are often challenges dealing with individuals that do not appreciate, understand or support these issues. That said, those on the other side of the debate do not understand the sustainability and social responsibility arguments. We have provided a number of posts to show some of these different perspectives:
Watching the news, social media and the talking heads one often only sees violent, and frequently irrational, disagreement. Even basic syllogistic logic that we learned in grade school implodes in many of these arguments. The issue is that everyone is yelling and no one is listening, let alone debating. This post will provide useful techniques to help all sides of the political spectrum.
This post is largely based on a TEDxPSU video by Julia Galef in February 2016 entitled “Why you think you’re right – event if you’re wrong.” I have “borrowed” quite a lot of the concepts from this presentation as I believe it offers a wonderful model for evolving ones frame of reference from blindly defending our beliefs to be willing to accept other perspectives to empower our own search for reality. Even if these new perspectives contradict or challenge what we currently believe. It is important to emphasize that we are not necessarily looking at major mind shifts or a 180 degree turn in one beliefs. The ability to make incremental updates or refinements is often all that is required.
I believe that we need to be aware of and understand the perspectives along the entire spectrum of beliefs for these issues. From a US perspective, we need both the Republicans and the Democrats to work together to develop sustainable solutions. From a Canadian perspective, we need the NDP, the Green Party, the Liberals, and the Conservatives to develop these sustainable solutions.
To show how this is possible, Julia’s presentation uses the warrior vs. the scout mindset as metaphors for how we perceive and react to debates and perspectives.
The primary focus of the warrior mindset is to fight to ensure your ideas win and others lose, or to attack or defend ideas at all costs. This represents the soldier mindset, which in the military and combat historically makes perfect sense.
The warrior mindset is like confirmation bias or an echo chamber on steroids, where we only read information that confirms to our established opinions and avoids information and groups that contradict our opinions.
However, in the sustainability and social responsibility debates, we owe it to each other to consider the other proven scientific perspectives and facts, to understand each other and not to simply put up our defenses to protect our tribal believes at all costs. This is where the scout mindset comes in. This suggestion applies by the way to both the left and right perspectives on the political spectrum.
The scout mindset tries to get an accurate picture of reality, even when that picture is unpleasant or inconvenient to your established perspectives. Despite one’s bias or desires, it is understood that we must cut threw our prejudices and assumptions. It is important to be curious, intrigued when we encounter something that contradicts our expectations, and being open and willing to test our own beliefs. Recognizing that it is not a weakness to change our mind, and that we are grounded enough to not be tied to a particular perspective.
The scout mindset helps us to deal with the psychological stress caused by the mental discomfort of cognitive dissonance, which occurs when a person tries to hold two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. The discomfort occurs when someone’s belief clashes with new evidence or facts perceived. When we are confronted with facts that contradict our established understandings, we must find a way to resolve the contradiction. Once again, it is not like we have to do a complete 180 and accept the other point of view, but understanding and appreciating certain established facts can go a long way to working together.
Some strategies to develop a scout mindset in order to improve our judgement include the following:
- Having respect for other viewpoints
- Not being intellectually overconfident
- Separating one’s ego from one’s intellect
- Willingness to revise one’s own viewpoint
You don’t have to agree with the “other side”, but use these techniques so at least we can understand the other perspectives. We will need the entire “political spectrum” to come up with sustainable solutions to the issues we are now facing, if for no other reason than the acceptance, adoption and integration of the required changes must be acceptable by all. These techniques will help allow us to have a real conversation.
Galef, Julia (February 2016). Why you think you’re right – event if you’re wrong. TEDxPSU. https://www.ted.com/talks/julia_galef_why_you_think_you_re_right_even_if_you_re_wrong
Galef, Julia (March 4, 2017). Why you shouldn’t try to “‘change your mind”. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6PgCN7ySGQ
Harman, Greg (November 10, 2014). Your brain on climate change: why the threat produces apathy, not action. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/nov/10/brain-climate-change-science-psychology-environment-elections
Konnikova, Maria (May 16, 2014). I Don’t Want to Be Right. The New Yorker. https://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/i-dont-want-to-be-right
Snow, Shane (November 20, 2018 ). A New Way to Become More Open-Minded. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2018/11/a-new-way-to-become-more-open-minded
Popova, Maria (ND). Kahlil Gibran on the Absurdity of Self-Righteousness. Brain Pickings. https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/10/28/kahlil-gibran-the-madman-said-a-blade-of-grass/
Popova, Maria (ND). How to Change Minds: Blaise Pascal on the Art of Persuasion. Brain Pickings. https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/05/20/blaise-pascal-pensees-persuasion/
Gilbert, Daniel (2010). ‘Global Warming and Psychology’. Harvard Thinks Big 2010. https://vimeo.com/10324258
Intentional • Immoral • Imminent • Instantaneous
Global warming: Silent, amoral and slow and much more dangerous than anything our ancestors imagined
The little prince…
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry