Every channel, every newspaper, and every radio talk show seems to be talking about one thing—the growing divide of Americans.
There was a time when the exchange of ideas was valued, the role of debate was revered, and the ability to consider another point of view was virtuous. Not so anymore.
Technology has accelerated this effect. In the quest to know, see, and be presented with information that is relevant, we achieve sanitized results that restrict what we see, read, and hear in such a way that we may never consider another perspective. That is dangerous.
TRIBES ARE NOT NEW
In his book Tribes, marketing futurist Seth Godin highlighted how social media has made it possible for anyone to build a following that provides them with influence, community, and the ability to create meaningful change. That behavior goes back to ancient times. Humans naturally drift toward people and groups they find similar to their thinking, habits, and worldview.
The benefits of building tribes are clear. Tribes:
Unify thinking. It’s natural to want to spend more time with people similar to you.
Provide identity. It’s desirable to find a group of people who perceive people and circumstances like you.
Increase influence through social movements. It’s motivating and even electrifying to think about the ability to overcome obstacles or create change through the power of collective action.
But, while natural, tribes also have drawbacks. Tribes:
Insulate from alternative points of view. The more you surround yourself with people who think, act, and behave like you, the harder it is to see something from an entirely new perspective.
Close off new information. If you filter out new ideas, you'll reinforce the most comfortable ones. Just because an idea is comfortable doesn't make it right.
Present barriers to meeting new people with different perspectives. Gaining new insights and new context means you must build relationships with people who aren’t anything like you.
LISTENING ENSURES TRIBES DON’T BECOME TRIBAL
There is a difference between building a tribe and becoming tribal. Finding identity and connection with people who see the world in a similar way is a good thing. But the moment the tribe becomes tribal by seeing different worldviews and perspectives as an attack on the tribe, that’s when things start to go wrong. This is not a reality you must accept nor feel powerless to do anything about.
You can create the change you want to see in the world. That is part of your divine design. But it must start with an open heart, an open mind, and a desire to seek out opposing views. Agreeing and advocating with someone else is not a prerequisite for active listening. But active listening is a prerequisite for a civil and productive society. It is something you must require of yourself.
If you listen to others—those like you and those different from you—the world gets much brighter.