After the tumultuous events of the past several years, I’ve noticed in my conversations with others that there no longer seems to be much middle ground on the issues of our day. Every issue and event seems to be polarizing and comes with a set of assumptions about the character and values of the people on the “other side.” By now, we have seen that this is an exhausting way to live.
Though I think most people would consider themselves open to change and willing to listen to others’ perspectives, it’s one thing to believe that about yourself and another one to train yourself to live that way.
A framework that has helped me hold my point of view in the face of waves of (often conflicting) information while remaining tolerant of other views is that of perception vs. perspective. As Pauline Rose Moore explains:
“Perception is what you interpret. It is your understanding of a given situation, person, or object. It is the meaning you assign to any given stimulus. Perspective is your point of view. It’s the lens you see the world through and determines how you view yourself, others, and everything else around you.”
We must be aware of what is influencing our perception of an issue, so that we understand how we’ve formed our perspective on an issue. The media and their priorities, our life experiences, the values we hold—all these and more impact how we interpret information. It is worth the time to investigate our own perceptions, not only so we can have a reasoned perspective but also to continue to listen to others and be open to change.
Here are some other ways we can regain the “middle ground”:
Look hard for dissenting opinions.
We need to be well-versed not just in defenses of our own perspective, but in the very best arguments of a variety of dissenting opinions. This doesn’t mean you have to abandon your perspective. There is nothing to fear in engaging other sides of the issue. Ask yourself: What can I affirm about this perspective? The reality is that nobody has THE answer to the issues of our day. There is always something to learn from other perspectives.