The One Thing I’d Love to Have Every Person on Planet Earth Understand
Imagine going to a movie theatre to watch a film. The audience is full and everyone is watching the same film on the same screen at the same exact time.
When you leave the theatre, you overhear some of the audience members talking about the movie and you think to yourself:
“What the hell are they talking about?”
It’s not just that they have a different opinion about the movie than you do, rather what they’re describing doesn’t appear to be the same movie at all.
Scott Adams calls this phenomenon the “two movies theory.” People with opposing ideologies don’t just disagree about their opinions, they live in entirely different realities and interpret the same exact situations entirely differently.
So, the one thing I would love to have every single person on Earth understand is this:
Your perspective is just one of 7 billion perspectives and you’re not right about everything. Hell, you’re probably not right about most things.
This includes me. I suffer from all the same biases and problems that come with living life through one perspective only.
Do I believe in some level of objective truth? Yes, things like laws of physics and the moral code we’ve created, e.g., not killing people, come to mind, but aside from those things, I try to pause and not claim righteousness or moral superiority over others.
Because I know I’m susceptible to the following:
- False consensus bias — You automatically assume everyone shares your beliefs. After all, they’re your beliefs, which means they’re right, which means everyone should agree with them. Maybe you know this is incorrect logically, but emotionally you feel this way.
- Confirmation bias — A corollary, but once you already believe something to be true emotionally, it’s hard to change your mind, even with facts that disconfirm your beliefs. This is why you see people talking past each other in arguments online. They’re both filtering out each other’s opinions.
- The above-average paradox — Almost all of us believe we have above-average intelligence, skill, and even ethical standards, which is mathematically impossible.
- Tribalism — This is especially true these days. Most people aren’t ideologues — meaning they adhere to a strict set of ideas. No, they’re ‘team players.’ They will believe whatever the team believes just because the team believes it. Why? Because we’re wired for social cohesion, conformity, and in-group/out-group bias. This is how political parties with seemingly contradictory beliefs within their own ideology can get away with such contradiction.
- The most dangerous word in the world — Anytime you use the word “should” you’re making an assumption that ties into all the above biases. Again, when it comes to ethics, all sides feel like they are superior, so they create ideals for others based on their own self-righteous beliefs, regardless of whether or not they’re valid.
Your personal experiences make up maybe 0.00000001% of what’s happened in the world but maybe 80% of how you think the world works. — Morgan Housel
The fact that I understand these biases doesn’t mean a ton. I know that I’m not open-minded by default. I know that I’m prone to stick with the beliefs I already hold. When it comes to changing my mind, I have a hard time doing it, but I at least try.
I try because I know my perspective is just one of many.
In your case, be mindful of how you judge the world, other people, and even yourself.
These days, it’s easy to get caught into thinking you’re the morally superior and righteous one while ‘they’ are the evil ones, but think about it.
People don’t just arrive at their beliefs out of nowhere. They had influences that shaped their thinking just like you. Try to understand them, at least.
Even if you disagree with someone, you should attempt to understand why they believe what they believe. If you can’t articulate the other side’s position without being condescending, overly emotional, and using ad hominem attacks, you don’t understand them.
If all your ideologies fit neatly into one box on one side of an aisle, that should give you pause because life isn’t that neat, ever.
The ultimate goal of understanding you have but one of many perspectives is learning to have compassion. When you have compassion and at least try to understand other people, you can unify them.
I’ve checked some of the profiles of people who follow my writing online — I have both hardcore Trump supporters and the most progressive people on planet earth as followers. How?
I stick to the things that unify us:
- We all want to find a nice career that provides a bit of financial flexibility
- We all want love, family, good friends, and solid relationships across the board
- We all want a sense of purpose and to feel like our life matters
Instead of looking at people through a single prism, what they believe politically or ideologically, I try to look at people as a whole. No human is a monolith.
Sadly, we’re entering a time where your affiliation seems to be the only thing that matters.
I don’t have all that much faith in the collective being able to solve their perspective problem, but I definitely have faith in the individual. Faith in you.
Do yourself a favor today, for the next week, the next month, try to understand people you detest for their beliefs.
Think past your initial reaction and dive deep into why they might think the way they think.
Try to show compassion. Try to think about where you might be able to find middle ground with people you disagree with.
Try this, and you’ll have not only a better understanding of others, but yourself.
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