To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions.
Why wait until Jan. 1 to lose weight, start paying off debt, quit smoking, or improve your personal relationships when you can do that in December?
Now, with that said, I do have a suggestion for those of you who either have made a resolution or are getting ready to make one: In 2022, keep an open mind and expose yourself to other points of view.
One of my biggest complaints about people as a whole is that we don’t do enough to engage in critical thinking—and people are very quick to believe anything they read, especially when it comes on social media.
I’ve always believed that social media is the best way for the misinformed to reach the uninformed, but I digress.
Now I’m not saying, change your core beliefs. If you believe in reparations or income inequality, that’s fine. If you have strong opinions on guns or abortion, that’s cool, too. All I ask is that you remember there is usually more than one side to an issue. In fact, there are usually multiple sides and nuances. Would it really hurt to be familiar with them?
If you’re a loyal MSNBC fan, would it really kill you to watch an occasional hour of Fox News? If you’re a big reader of National Review, would it be all that bad to read an occasional article in The Nation?
What you’ll find by exposing yourself to other points of view is that you can actually become a better advocate for your own, because you understand what the other side is thinking and you can form better arguments.
I’ve been teaching speech for Ivy Tech Community College since 2003 and, at the end of the semester, my students have to deliver a persuasive speech. I give them a survey on various political issues of the day, and, depending on their responses, I have them argue the opposite of their answer. So, for example, I will ask them if they thought Donald Trump should have been re-elected president. If they answer “yes,” I make them argue he should not have been. If they answered “no,” I have them argue that he should have.
The assignment teaches critical thinking and that there are different points of view, some contradictory to their own. I’ve found that students either have their beliefs reinforced or they do a complete 180-degree turn on the issue. At the very least, they understand their original point of view a lot better.
As a famous Indiana politico once wrote, “It’s a mighty thin pancake that don’t have two sides.”
I think studying issues while keeping an open mind will go a long way to making us a more civil nation and improving our discourse. You can learn quite a bit by just putting the brakes on shouting and screaming and instead actually listening to what the other side has to say.
So, take some time in 2022 to listen to other points of view, and you will be amazed at what you can find. And at the end of the day, you will actually become a smarter individual.
It’s the same reason sports teams watch tapes of their opponents—to see how they play so they know how to counteract whatever happens out on the field.
As my lovely mother used to say, no one has a monopoly on good ideas or stupidity. And the more you read and engage others, the more that saying rings true.
Have a great 2022.•
Shabazz is an attorney, radio talk show host and political commentator, college professor and stand-up comedian.
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