It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. — Aristotle
Can you entertain or tolerate a discussion with someone even if you don’t see the logic in his or her viewpoint? In our culture, the objective of a conversation is to find agreement or disagreement. In most cases, the individuals in the discussion are not fully listening to one another. They are only listening for what they agree or disagree with and their counter debate.
This includes the philosophy of agreeing to disagree. That mindset does notallow for an open and effective dialogue. It is a subtle way to make the other wrong. Instead of figuring out what’s wrong with the other person’s viewpoint, listen for the value in it.
To Aristotle’s point, an educated mind can hold a conversation without the need for agreement or disagreement. In that kind of dialogue, the parties are fully present to one another and listen for what they can learn. In some cases, the conversationalists create a new idea which is an amalgamation of the combined perspectives. In that case, it is analogous to hydrogen and oxygen coming together to make water. Hydrogen and oxygen do not try to convert one another. They become something that resembles neither.
To further Aristotle’s quote, Bill Clinton was famous for making his cabinet members understand the opposing view of their position. If a cabinet member advised him to declare war on a nation, Clinton asked him to do a presentation in the next meeting for why they should not go to war. The cabinet member would be responsible for doing extensive research to understand an opposing view to their position. As a result, in some cases, the cabinet member reversed their position. In other cases, they were more prepared to move forward with their position. However, they may have identified unforeseen pitfalls or opportunities.
In your next conversation, engage the other person without accepting or rejecting their perspective. The other person may appear wrong based on your experience. At the same time, they may expand your world. Therefore, instead of debating, ask questions to understand why they see the world the way they do.
What do you think? I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, let me know.