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  Different points of view? Entertaining new trains of thought? 
  Jun 08, 2001, 09:00am EDT 
By: Dan Mepham

Increasingly, Iíve noticed an unwillingness in many to think open mindedly; to entertain new trains of thought. Something is said, and if itís not immediately in-line with oneís own viewpoints, it is dismissed as rubbish with hardly a second glance.

I write an article that presents Intel or AMD in a negative light. Whether my article was logical, progressive, and well thought-out, or a complete load of editorial trash, the result will be the same: Iíll get 100 emails.

90 of those emails will be from angry and emotionally charged supporters of said company. Theyíll be borderline irate with me, and will launch a small verbal onslaught. Theyíll throw out popular buzzwords; a common favorite is Ďbiasí, watch for it. Theyíll accuse me of owning stock, being on someoneís payroll, or otherwise having some hidden agenda. They may even insist Iíve been smoking crack. Theyíll do anything they can to discredit me.

Why? What does that accomplish?

Odds are, most of those 90 people didnít take the time to read my article thoroughly in the first place, or to really consider the arguments made therein. Odds are they glanced over it, likely skipping a paragraph or two (come on, weíve all done it), just so they could get to the end faster, at which time they proceeded to announce to the rest of the world just how wrong I really am.

What good has that done them?

The problem is that most of the writers of those 90 emails have already made up their minds. They know which company/product is better, and theyíre not willing to hear anyone who thinks otherwise. It seems to me as though, especially regarding highly polarized debates, such as Intel/AMD, there is an increasing unwillingness to even consider an alternate viewpoint.

Since when are you so right that anyone who doesnít agree with you isnít even worth listening to? That attitude starts wars.

Iím not saying itís bad to have an opinion, or to be passionate about it, Iím saying itís bad to think that yours is the only opinion thatís worth considering. An unwillingness to entertain opposing trains of thought hurts you the most. You can go on thinking the world is flat, and be perfectly happy about it, and it wonít hurt me at all, just you.

But where does it get you? What good will that do you?

The fact of the matter is that itís all a way out. Itís a way to avoid thinking. Itís very difficult to try to understand an opposing viewpoint, to think. Itís much easier to dismiss it, and we all like easy.

The easy route is very seldom the most enriching.

On the other hand, the remaining 10 of those emails will be completely different. Theyíll be from people who are willing to entertain different ideas, people that are willing to think, and theyíll be so noticeable in both tone and content that you can pick them out half a mile away. The authors may agree with the arguments put forth in my article, or they may not. The difference between them and the 90 others is that, particularly if they donít agree with me, theyíve considered my points, tried to view issues from my perspective, and used my arguments to test their own convictions. They havenít gotten defensive, theyíve gotten inquisitive. They havenít taken the easy road, theyíve taken the harder one.

Instead of dismissing my arguments, theyíve tried to see how they could be valid, and used them to test their own beliefs. If their beliefs withheld, theyíre that much stronger.

Learn to welcome viewpoints which question your convictions, for they are the ones that will ultimately make you stronger. You donít need to be 100% open-minded, no one is, and no one can be. Thatís what makes us human. But the more you strive to consider new possibilities, the more youíll see and learn and understand.

I'm not speaking of an article or a website, I'm speaking far more generally, of human behavior. And this certainly isnít an assault or a lecture. Iím not attacking anyone, how can I for something I have been guilty of myself in the past? Instead, itís an invitation for us all to improve ourselves.

Do you agree with me? Disagree? In either case, Iíd like to hear why. Use the discussion link below, and let me know what you think.

Don't take the easy road, take the harder one. Donít be one of the 90. Be one of the 10.

Dan Mepham

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