Thursday, May 28, 2009

Being in Relationships Works: On Opening the Minds of Others

In Nicholas Kristof's op-ed today in the, there is an interesting study on opening the minds of each other to accept or consider an opposite view than we necessarily have or take. For example, when confronted with a "blow hard" caricature of an opposing point, our minds turn off and we rebuff another way of understanding life.

However, through relationships, things change:

So how do we discipline our brains to be more open-minded, more honest, more empirical? A start is to reach out to moderates on the other side — ideally eating meals with them, for that breaks down “us vs. them” battle lines that seem embedded in us. (In ancient times we divided into tribes; today, into political parties.) The Web site is an attempt to build this intuitive appreciation for the other side’s morality, even if it’s not our morality.

“Minds are very hard things to open, and the best way to open the mind is through the heart,” Professor Haidt says. “Our minds were not designed by evolution to discover the truth; they were designed to play social games.”

Thus persuasion may be most effective when built on human interactions. Gay rights were probably advanced largely by the public’s growing awareness of friends and family members who were gay.

A corollary is that the most potent way to win over opponents is to accept that they have legitimate concerns, for that triggers an instinct to reciprocate. As it happens, we have a brilliant exemplar of this style of rhetoric in politics right now — Barack Obama.

What this means is simply this: coming out of the closet, relating to others what and who we are, helps break down the walls of prejudice, homophobia, and heterosexism, along with a plethora of other walls.

Click here for more.

Pace, B

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