How can we change the bad vibes that seem all around? Agree with being wrong and have no opinion on everything | Brigitte Delaney

Desperation has an almost seductive quality, the delicious moment just before surrender.

And who could blame us for falling into despair?

We’ve had half a decade of an increasingly harsh news cycle, over two years of fear and isolation due to the pandemic and being separated from others and the things that bring us joy . Instead, we swapped socializing for screens. But what a terrible exchange it was. Increasingly sophisticated and pervasive algorithms are designed to drive division between us and create strong emotions, and our physical isolation from one another means that those emotions don’t get a chance to cool or soften like they can when we interact face to face. .

Add to that the heightened anxiety of “going out” or having people in your home, or spending time with someone “not in your bubble” (in both senses of the word), then you have a recipe for feel alienated from your fellow human beings. .

Rather than settling into the gap, I’ve been thinking lately: what small acts can I do that could reduce the gaps between us? How can I change the bad vibes that seem all around? Where can I – and you! – have the power to bridge this divide?

There are a few small things that are within our control that could have a major impact on how we come together as a society to solve big problems. But to solve big problems, we need to practice more about interacting with people who have opposing points of view.

Have no opinion on everything

It used to be that most people had strong opinions about one or two areas of focus (High Speed ​​Rail! Training Strategies at Essendon Football Club!), but over the past 10 years the world has started inviting our opinions on everything, even things we don’t know much about.

This accelerated when popular online platforms linked news to social media and we were given the opportunity to comment on every post on our friends’ pages, which means we are basically invited to have an opinion on everything.

But having an opinion on everything is neither natural nor normal.

The great Roman Stoic Emperor Marcus Aurelius said almost 2000 years ago: “You always have the option of not having an opinion. There’s never a need to get upset or trouble your soul about things you can’t control. These things don’t need to be judged by you. Leave them alone.”

Leave them alone!

Having a strong opinion on everything creates a volatile and feverish atmosphere where you constantly state, defend and argue your opinion, often on platforms such as Twitter where the context has collapsed in 280 characters.

Opinion becomes ego-bound, your opinion bECOMES you – and therefore an attack on your opinion is an attack on the very fiber of your being. So, vigilant and anxious, you must defend public opinion as you would defend yourself. This then creates a binary: people who agree with you are good and people who disagree are bad.

By leaving things alone, by not getting upset, we are not adding to the toxic load of disagreement, hatred and fury online, which of course seeps into people’s real lives.

Be okay to be wrong

It’s liberating to let go of the need to be right all the time. The ability to reconsider your positions, to take in new information, to see a different point of view, to be curious about alternatives, to say “I was wrong” or “I changed my mind” is erode those hard binaries, the us versus them that so many of us have gotten stuck in over the past few years. When you lay down your arms, relax and have nothing to prove, then you can work towards consensus on the big issues. How can there be real change in society when people don’t listen to each other or have an empathetic approach to other positions?

Breaking bread with people you disagree with

If there’s anything that’s really gone out of style, it’s having people over for dinners and the evening ends in heated political debate.

It happened often, and though the arguments (Iraq! Socialism! Carbon rationing!) got heated, it was rarely unbearable. Most guests and their hosts could handle an opposing point of view and not let it ruin their night. In fact, opposing viewpoints were needed to make good roundtables and facilitate real intellectual and ideological shifts.

But over the past few years, I’ve spoken to dozens of people who no longer want to discuss politics with those who have an opposing point of view. Entire members of their social circle do not speak because their political opinions irritate them. Any conversation must remain soft and superficial to prevent the geyser of political beliefs from exploding and upsetting everyone.

Over the past few years, many of us have lost our ability and tolerance to resist opposition and remain friends with the adversary. Not surprisingly, there has been a real decline in dinner. Walking on eggshells or having everyone agree with you all the time makes the evening boring.

But breaking bread with people you disagree with and civilly disagree with is a crucial step in understanding different viewpoints and sharpening your own rhetorical skills, beliefs and persuasiveness when defending your own. camp.

Like any suggestion, keeping an open mind has its limits. There is a time to listen to other points of view, and also a time to take a stand. Adopting a more conciliatory approach to other viewpoints does not mean accepting, say, injustice, fascism or denial of climate change. (Or as EE Cummings and others have said, “Don’t be so open-minded that your brain drops.”)

But the increasingly rigid way in which we stand apart from ‘them’, the inflexible stance of being right can only win more than one, before ‘them’ becomes unwavering and hardened.

“We must love each other or die,” writes WH Auden in a desperate poem written in response to the outbreak of World War II. It’s always been our only way.

Brigid Delaney is the author of Reasons Not to Worry (Allen and Unwin) on how using Stoic philosophy can make you cooler. His book comes out in September

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