It would be fair to say there is more political awareness these days. On both sides of all fences, people seem more ready to shout their opinions and deride any beliefs that don’t align with their own.

The louder you shout and the more noise you make, the more likely you are to ‘win’. Wrong. Regardless of our opinion, shouting louder is very unlikely to change someone else’s views.

It seems to me that, not only in our political discussions but in any multi-sided argument, we need to take time to listen.

In listening — and hearing — what others say, we are able both to expose ourselves to other points of view, and, more usefully, better understand what matters to the other person.

And it’s this information that should help us construct our own argument.

In this video, Atlantic writer Olga Khazan explains “One reason it’s so hard to reach across the ideological divide is that people tend to present their arguments in a way that appeals to the ethics of their own side, rather than that of their opponents”.

To understand where the opposing view comes from, we need a shift in thinking; we need to try harder to see the world through the other eyes and empathise with different positions and environments, experiences and moral codes.

In doing this, not only do we genuinely take time to understand how another’s moral codes have influenced their outlook but we also develop our emotional intelligence and empathy (which can only be a good thing in helping to build bridges).

And the other upside is we garner information that helps us to reframe or repackage our argument, so we can have more productive discussions that move away from hurling abuse from one side of the fence to the other.

In writing an argumentative essay, if you’ve taken time to listen to and empathise with someone from the other side, you can use what matters to them to construct your essay and present your argument, which follows your moral code, using buzz points
that acknowledge and make use of a different moral code.

For many, this is easier said than done, especially in written form, but if everyone sits down with someone with vastly different views, and really tries to understand where they’re coming from, the world will be a nicer place.

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