miss_s_b: (feminist heroes: river song)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
In discussion on twitter today, someone Not Like Me* praised me for trying to understand their position. I am having a rather mixed set of reactions to it. Obviously gratitude (it's nice to be praised) and faint smugness (yes, I AM awesome) but also a large dollop of confusedness (it was described as a rare thing to do) and quite a lot of sadness (why is it rare? Surely everyone reasonable tries to understand other people?).

I suspect this plugs into my fondness for debate, and my dad having drummed scientific method into me. How can you debate something with someone if you don't understand their position? How can you test someone's reasoning if you don't know how that reasoning has been reached? So I try very hard to understand the positions of people Not Like Me because I don't know without trying to understand them whether or not they might have a point in whatever they are arguing for/against.

What I don't get is why this isn't second nature to everyone else?

I mean, sure you might be totally convinced of your rightness in a particular argument (I often am ;)), but if that's the case, surely you'd be better forensically dismantling your opponent than just dismissing them? And to do that you need to at least try and understand where they're coming from. You can pick holes in a cloth if you don't know where it is, after all.

Or you might want to totally support the position of the people unlike you. But without trying to understand them you might unwittingly undermine them or cause them pain (and this is something I suspect I am rather prone to, which is a big part of my wish to understand).

Now I'm not saying that this is easy. It often isn't, particularly because I do occasionally get things wrong and have to publicly apologise/backtrack. But surely it's easier than being dogmatic and unmovable and ignorant? Surely it's easier than pissing people off, either purposefully or inadvertently?

I guess this is just another thing I don't understand that I would like to. Like a circle in a circle...

* for the purposes of this blog post it doesn't really matter in what way I differ from the person I was talking to, so I am keeping it deliberately vague. A person being Not Like Me is in no way meant as a perjorative - in fact, in many cases it's a positive advantage - but just as a description.
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Hello! I'm Jennie (known to many as SB, due to my handle, or The Yorksher Gob because of my old blog's name). This blog is my public face; click here for a list of all the other places you can find me on t'interwebs.

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