“Put yourself in a position where you hold a minority position. Take note of the way you feel when you are dismissed, mocked, and derided. Consider how likely you are to respect and listen to the person who has unfairly represented your position. Don’t pick a fight. Don’t try to win another argument. Just listen.”
It was my favorite class. At least for the first half of the semester. I loved the passion with which the professor destroyed the arguments of opponents. His words helped to deepen my faith and my convictions. And I appreciated his humor and wit. He had a special way of pointing out the ignorance of those who disagreed with us theologically.
Then I became a them instead of an us.
The class wasn’t as fun anymore. His wit wasn’t humorous it was biting. His arguments weren’t air tight they seemed over confident, silly, and as if they weren’t presenting my side in the best light. He didn’t change his tactic, just his topic. And it changed my view of the professor. When I experienced the way he treated my arguments it caused me to not only question his integrity on this issue but to even cast doubt upon his other positions as well.
I learned much in that class. I agreed with the professor on about 90% of the material. But it was that 10% and the experience of being on the “other side” which shaped me more than any of the 90% which I agree upon. It wasn’t the content which bothered me. It was the way in which he interacted with my position. And what I felt emotionally as he did this. It created in me a few added hurdles I had to overcome to take him seriously in his other statements—even when I agreed.
This experience has caused me to always pursue understanding the other side. As best as I can I want to listen and accurately present their side. At the end of the day I may not win the argument, but I’m convinced I’ll have gone further in winning the person. It’s helpful to think about our interactions on social media—and probably more importantly face to face interactions. If someone I am witnessing to were likely to listen to my arguments and the way I’m interacting, would they be more or less likely to listen to me in the future?