Yesterday I came across an article on LinkedIn titled Why are hypocritical arguments so popular?. It basically points out how (and perhaps even why) people sometimes lash out against certain topics, but later are quick to defend them. Most every day examples center around politics, though the writer admitted that there’s really more to it.I’m not going to dive any more into what that article actually said because in the end I didn’t understand most of it. It was lawyer-speak that described people’s ideological vs. procedural reasoning behind every day arguments. What the writer did, however, was remind me of how I often enjoy playing Devil’s Advocate when it comes to issues and discussions I find myself a part of.
Meaning: despite the topic at hand and in spite of what my own beliefs might be, I often take an opposing view of the person with whom I’m having the discussion. At the very least, I try to lead the discussion away from an all-or-nothing debate.
To many people these days tend to think in absolutes. That the answer is always black-or-white; true-or-false. Or, sadly, Liberal-or-Conservative. In the latter case, the answer has almost always been decided for them depending on their political beliefs and/or which politician or media personality they admire.
It shouldn’t be that way. Open discussion should be the norm – and guess what? – changing one’s mind is ok.
Personally, I don’t necessarily disagree with someone to be confrontational nor is it always about wanting to start an argument. Nor, as some might contend, am I simply trying to be a jerk. So why, then, do I do it? Why do I often take an opposing view of an issue in which I might actually agree with?
Part of the reason is to try and force the other person to think for themselves; to defend their opinions by means other than repeating views they heard in the media, read on Facebook, or what was the trending theme might’ve been on Twitter.
Another reason, too, is to try and get the person to empathize with the opposing viewpoint. Or to at least understand the other side. People often rely on their own background and experiences to form their opinions, which makes perfect sense. Yet it’s not always easy to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and look at something from a different perspective.
It’s also educational, especially from my point of view. Listening to other opinions – whether they’re exactly the same, slightly similar, or completely opposite – helps create the “bigger picture”. Too often people can be so narrow-minded, err, focused on a single way of thinking that it never occurs to them that there is always, ALWAYS, two-sides to a story and that despite thinking they know all they need to know about something, there’s always more. I’m, no doubt, guilty of this too.
Finally, it’s fun. It amuses me to watch people squirm under their own logic or to have a light-bulb moment; to see the look in their eyes the instant they start questioning their original line of thought or that maybe they jumped to a premature conclusion.
Oh. And believe me, I am not always right. And I sure am not trying to convince anyone to think like me or believe in the same things as I do. It’s about keeping an open-mind. It’s about taking in all the facts, opinions, and thoughts of others, digesting them, and spitting out an informed response.
We’ve seemed to have lost the ability to think for ourselves. As individuals we seem to just side with the masses. I know it was made popular in the movie “Men in Black”, but the phrase has been around for awhile:
A person is smart. People are dumb…
George Carlin takes it one step further with his line, “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”
The moral being: learn to think for yourself. Understand there are two sides to every story and it’s a disservice, really, not to know about both when making up your mind on something.