A bloom is a small idea of how to improve our world.
Tend the garden of humanity with me by blogging with your own idea on any Sunday.
If you do, feel free to pingback here so we can keep the conversation going.
Today’s Bloom: Let People Speak for Themselves
If you read my recent post, you know that I was discouraged by a study I learned about that turned out to be falsified. The study claimed that when people who opposed same-sex marriage spoke to queer canvassers about their lives and why they opposed marriage equality, their stance was likely to become more liberal and stay that way in the long term. Not only that, they were likely to change the minds of others they knew who shared their previous opinion. Furthermore, the personalized method was also said to be effective when canvassers who had an abortion spoke to anti-abortion voters.
The study was largely falsified and the stories behind the results were almost entirely fabricated. The study was a sham, but what about the idea behind it? Is the key to lasting empathetic change polite personal conversations between conservatives and the people whose rights they oppose? It’s so simple. It certainly can’t hurt, right?
I don’t know how large a change can be wrought from a short conversation between strangers. If a significant change of mind is experienced, I don’t know how long it might last. I do know that humans don’t like to be proven wrong. Even when facing direct evidence of our wrongness, we tend to dig in our heels twice as deep.
As someone looking to affect lasting social improvement, I am loathe to dismiss a possible solution, especially one so straight-forward. I do what I can to speak out and up — to improve the world by filtering my experiences and relating the lessons learned to others. Yet, speaking is only one part of the empathy equation. Listening is the other.
There have been many issues that I have wanted to speak about, but have held my tongue instead. I make this choice when I know others will speak better than I can. It is time to listen when others’ experiences are relevant and mine are lacking. Many times, I have no experiences to distill at all. I do a lot of listening, but I don’t think I have done enough to boost the signals of the voices I turn to.
This means more retweets and shares and reblogs, but it also means deferring to others more eloquently and regularly offline. Humans digest stories more readily than statistics. Co-opting narratives does little to help anyone. We must help each other be heard, rather than yearning to be the loudest.