This will be directly tied to something I’ve wanted to post for a very long time (and will be soon).
Whatever you want to call it – dialogue, conversation, verbal exchange – it’s vital to everything we value as a species – our knowledge, our relationships, our survival… But there’s something I’ve noticed about most people regarding this subject: They don’t do it. Sure, people can converse when they have to or when they’re with someone they like, but only those times. Not only is that stupid, it’s a problem.
If my YouTube channel goes anywhere, I want to have a series where all I do is talk to people who disagree with me. It would be the most fulfilling thing I’d do on the channel, especially if common ground is ever reached on any particular subject.
You wouldn’t believe the things you could learn about someone from having conversations with them. I don’t even mean things they outright tell you, though that applies. No, I mean things you can learn about someone simply by being in a conversation with them. Their demeanor, their way of thinking, their authentic feelings… Things you cannot discern from simply, say, reading what they write or hearing what they voice over some form of media.
Conversing with a person makes you realize, more than anything else possibly could, that they are a person.
It’s one thing to not want to talk to someone – hell, in most cases it’s completely understandable – but to actually avoid ever having any dialogue is just cowardly. It’s a lot of things, actually. Almost too many to list. It’s cowardly, it’s immature, it’s beyond selfish, it’s closed-minded, it’s willful ignorance, etc., etc. When you choose to never speak to someone, when you choose to never exchange ideas, perspectives, experiences, or to compromise, you’re not only being self-absorbed and a coward, you are also purposefully denying that person’s humanity. (I don’t mean that in any extreme way; I just think it makes you see someone as slightly less of a person.)
I listen to everything, from people I don’t like at all, to people I think are unbearable morons. Why? Because you never know what you can gather from them. Even if you’re certain you won’t gain any higher understanding from listening to them, at the very least you can learn where they’re coming from. Half the reason I became disillusioned with the political left is because I chose to start listening to conservatives. In fact, I only started listening to conservatives because I wanted to criticize them. Turns out, I quickly realized they’re not so bad (at least, not as bad as they used to be). I grew in knowledge and wisdom by stepping out of my echo chamber. I started to sympathize with people I was openly hostile toward.
There is no excuse for behaving like a stubborn child when it comes to understanding people through dialogue. It’s not always about understanding, either. Sometimes we need to compromise, and sometimes we just need to show a bit of effort (which can go a long way as well). Snarling and folding your arms like a child saying, “No no no no!” doesn’t help anything. Saying under your breath, “Oh my god, I can’t believe they think that,” doesn’t help anything. On the flipside, simply seeing yourself as too good to talk things through is equally as helpful. You need to try it before you can declare it won’t go anywhere.
Until you have spoken to someone, or at the very least left the invitation to talk open (as I’ve had to do countless times), you have no excuse not to understand someone. If you leave the invitation open, then the ball is in their court and they’re the ones to blame for whatever happens next. But when you talk to someone, really try to see where they’re coming from. Often times when I’m conversing with someone, I think to myself, There must be some kind of truth that’s making them believe what they’re saying.
Point is, it’s about effort. It’s about trying to get along. It’s about trying to understand. No one person’s ego is precious enough to avoid speaking to anyone who disagrees with them. If you don’t have the time, or if you know the person just wants to pick a fight, or try to ridicule you, or something like that, then sure, don’t talk to them. But when two people have a genuine desire to find common ground, there’s no excuse to avoid that. If you don’t want to find common ground, I think that’s shameful, and there’s especially no excuse for that.