Growing up I often heard adults warn to never discuss politics or religion at social gatherings. I didn’t really understand the warning on a deep level until recently. Now that we live in a time of rampant political divisiveness, I often find people who have completely opposite world-views and each person not only believes that the other is wrong, but completely ignorant in their understanding of reality. Each side has their mind made up and discussion is futile.
As I’ve been pondering how to understand people who represent the “other” from my perspective, I came across an Apple podcast from Innovation Hub called Teamsmanship. During the podcast authors Mark Hetherington and Lillianna Mason were interviewed. Mark and his coauthor Jonathan Weiler wrote Prius or Pickup?: How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America’s Great Divide. Lillianna Mason wrote Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity.
My takeaway from the podcast is that each of us is drawn to our respective sides from a deep seated feeling. We either believe that our lives are threatened by terrorists, criminals and illegal immigrants and our priority should be to protect ourselves OR we believe its a big beautiful world mostly full of good people and we must find a way to embrace each other and not allow ourselves to be isolated. We then interpret information in a way that makes our party seem better and the other party seem worse. In fact, we are hardwired to try to find information that makes our team look good and to find ways to disprove information that makes the other team look good causing us to think in a completely biased way without knowing that we are biased.
The team becomes more important than policies or I might add even the truth. We all are experiencing implicit bias. The authors suggest that we should not try to discuss politics with the other until we build something together toward a common goal with the other. The only way to stop implicit bias is to actively acknowledge that it is happening and then to work on slowing down our automatic responses that are going to be immediately biased to anything partisan. We need to ask ourselves, what are the things that I automatically do when I think about the other side? And, then I can slow those things down.
Let’s recognize our own implicit bias, seek the truth and build a better world together.