In today’s world of the 24/7 news cycle, social media, and constant political tension; we often find quickly picking sides and fighting battles over a situation, ideology or news article we just read. As I want to discuss in a later post this is not always our fault. From our need to belong to something larger than ourselves, along with our perceptions created not only from what economic class or country we were born into; but from thousands of years of trial and error of our ancestors to attempt to understand the timeless questions of society and life itself.
Although perception and bias are not always our fault, as none of us decided which lifestyle we would be raised in, our fault lies in believing that our lifestyle is superior. Often times I watch twitter warriors fighting for whatever they believe is true and just, the second someone asks them to further justify their side, they hit the block button without a second thought.
I believe this block button and fear of discussing anything past “How was your day” with our fellow members of society has left us in a rut. I believe with proper use (meaning don’t be an asshole just to be an asshole) we can take the dark connotation of the “devil’s advocate” and use it to light up discussion in this world.
The Devil’s Advocate reminds me of the infamous “why” vine (press link for further understanding), after a while of watching the vine you understandably get annoyed. Which is true when you use the DA wrong as well. Also another reason why the negative connotation surrounds it. We live in a world where the common-man shrinks from challenges rather than takes them head on. Similar to the twitter warrior blocking their opponent rather than backing up their statement with facts or further understanding their opponent’s point. It is a fine line to tinker with but I have a couple ideas on how to take the first steps to master the DA.
Begin with some of your better friends, people who won’t begin to despise you as you try out your new ability. Another trick is to question them about something you agree with them on. See how deep their knowledge is on the subject, it does not matter how loud they talk or how passionate they sound, as James Patterson once said ” Assume nothing, question everything”. As you begin to do this with your friends you will as a group realize how little you know about the topics you are most passionate about.
As the skill goes up in mastery it will allow you to move beyond your friends and subjects you agree on. Move on to the friend who aligns differently in their political views, or if you do not care about politics talk to your friend who for some reason likes Star Trek more than Star Wars. The point of using the DA is not to see how smart your friends or family or enemies are but to take time to listen yourself.
By challenging people and allowing people to challenge you, then taking that a step further and truly listening to another person’s perspective is the only way to grow. By understanding that we are normally not in control of our original beliefs and understanding what would generate our differences in opinions allow us to open our mind and truly understand what we believe.
If we could take a little time out of our day to step off our high horse, whatever breed it may be, and take a moment to not talk or shout over each other but truly listen. We can unlock the growth and potential that we fear so greatly we will never be able to attain.