How to quickly determine whether someone is open-minded.
Sometimes while discussing a contentious topic, I find myself irritated by the other person. I’ve realized that this is due to a subtle distinction in how the other person argues.
When you pose a point, do they immediately make counter-statements based on what they thought you said, or do they ask questions?
There was a point in my life where I didn’t ask questions before making statements. I just assumed the other person was incorrect. This essay is very much a letter to my past self.
Of course no one can explain an entire philosophy in a few sentences during a conversation. Nor can we explain all research in a field, and anticipate all counterarguments in 30 seconds. (That’s what books are for!) Yet this, frustratingly, seems to me to be the implicit assumption of this kind of reaction.
Does the other person really think that the people who have spent so much time on this idea haven’t also thought about the counterargument that took two seconds and no prior knowledge to come to? I was once guilty of this. And I know a lot of otherwise intelligent people that do this.
It is vexing to interact with people who tend to make statements about what they think before they ask questions to see how things really are.
Instead, such people merely reiterate what they know, and reject what is being posited because they don’t already believe it.
If someone isn’t asking questions, expect that they can’t be convinced.
Ask questions before making statements.
I wonder if notifying someone of this behavior would help. I tried this with someone close to me and it worked well, but I haven’t tried this with anyone I’m less familiar with. Not sure if this is a good idea. But maybe doing so would also be a way to test whether they respond to feedback well? Thoughts?
Posted 2020 August 3, last updated 2021 January 5.
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