Not everyone can. A lot of people see things as either my way or the wrong way. And studies are showing that we're getting a lot more divided in our thinking. 

The Atlantic and Predictwise took a look at the political divide by county--but instead of saying "this county is red, this county is blue" they looked at "partisan prejudice." They found that

In general, the most politically intolerant Americans, according to the analysis, tend to be whiter, more highly educated, older, more urban, and more partisan themselves. This finding aligns in some ways with previous research by the University of Pennsylvania professor Diana Mutz, who has found that white, highly educated people are relatively isolated from political diversity. They don't routinely talk with people who disagree with them; this isolation makes it easier for them to caricature their ideological opponents.

You're not going to have true diversity in your business if you only listen to people who already agree with you. Lots of companies take political stands these days, but doing that literally kills your diversity--for any particular position you take you can guarantee that about half of the country disagrees with you.

And disagreement is okay, it's that contempt is coming into play. As The Atlantic found, people don't want to talk to people of a differing political party and certainly don't want their children marrying someone on the other side of the aisle.

And this is a problem because it ceases to be a policy disagreement and becomes a morality difference. As Arthur C. Brooks writes in The New York Times

Each side thinks it is driven by benevolence, while the other is evil and motivated by hatred -- and is therefore an enemy with whom one cannot negotiate or compromise.

Is this you? Are you convinced that people with whom you disagree are evil? Most likely they are actually not and if you really sought to understand (as Stephen Covey) says, you'd be able to understand them--even if you ultimately still disagree. So, here's your assignment to figure out if you are capable of this.

Test Your Inner Diversity of Thought

Take a topic for which you are passionate. It could be a political topic (I think person X is the best politician ever!) or a business one (I think telecommuting is the answer to engagement problems) and write down your argument. 

Now, take the opposite position (this is why person X should not be elected or in office work is the answer to engagement problems) and write an argument in favor of that position.

You'll have to do some research. You may have to speak to some people you normally wouldn't speak with. You'll have to actually listen, and it will be hard.

One thing that we humans are really good at is believing everything that fits in our current world view and rejecting everything that doesn't, so trying to find out why people disagree with you can be more difficult than it appears at first glance.

If you can make a coherent and well-supported argument for the other side, then congratulations--you are open-minded and accepting. If you can't, go back and start over again.

You may say, "there's no way! The other side is completely irrational!" Chances are, they are not. And someone else is saying this about your favored position.

Why do you need to see both sides?

First of all, why alienate half your customers? Second, people are more than their one view on one subject. You truly need to understand where people come from.

As someone who lives outside my home country and my home culture, I'm faced with this every day. I can sit and complain about the stupid things the Swiss do, or I can attempt to understand where they are coming from. 

In the US, right now, we're so divided we might as well be living in two separate countries. But that doesn't help any of us and it certainly doesn't help your company. So, when you think diversity, think about diversity of thought and work to understand the other side.

Published on: Mar 6, 2019
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