Polarization in today’s discourse is a problem. Some find it impossible to even relate to friends and family members who hold different political opinions than them.
And Americans should be concerned. A recent study highlights the risks increased polarization could have on our democracy.
So, how can we be more curious in a time when it feels harder and less safe to do so? How can we effectively listen to people we disagree with, especially those we are not sure we can take in good faith? And is there any real benefit to even trying?
“I think there is this pervasive misconception that if I engage with someone who disagrees with me, I’m already tacitly putting my views beneath theirs… and I think this is one of the most tragic misconceptions that there are out there.” Mónica Guzmán, author
Listen: Why it is important to exchange ideas with people we disagree with.
Mónica Guzmán is a Senior Fellow at Braver Angels — a nonprofit working to depolarize America — and author of “I Never Thought of It That Way: How to have fearlessly curious conversations in dangerously divided times.” She says refusal to discuss ideas with those we disagree with is harmful because it actually helps increase polarization.
“When people spend more time discussing ideas with only like-minded people, our ideas intensify and we want to make bigger steps to address the policy changes we want,” says Guzman. “Every time we burn a bridge with someone who disagrees with us, we’re sort of upping the ratio that they would spend time with only people who agree with them.”