Terms to Keep in Mind Throughout Reading
- Critical Listening (here): Critical listening is listening in order to evaluate and judge, forming opinion about what is being said. Judgment includes assessing strengths and weaknesses, agreement and approval.
Cognitive Dissonance: situation or experience involving two different beliefs/perspectives/opinions/judgements, resulting in anxiety, internal tension or discomfort that usually causes us to change a behavior or attitude to avoid said discomfort (antonym: Consonance)
Consonance: a safe environment where this are predictable and seemingly under control (antonym: Cognitive Dissonance) (here)
“Devil’s Advocate”: proposing a logical contradiction to a given set of beliefs
Quotes to Keep in Mind Throughout Reading
“The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” - F Scott Fitzgerald
The idea is to live in the middle of ideas, believing in them enough to take action but not enough so they become too big of an anchor when something better comes along.Keats called this ability “negative capability.” Roger Martin argues that successful thinking involves integrating several different ideas while maintaining the ability to act. It is through the exploration of these opposing ideas, or uncertainty if you will, that we come to better outcomes. - Shane Parrish
- “You need all kinds of influences, including negative ones, to challenge what you believe in.” - Bill Murray
"Life requires courage, patience, persistence, empathy, openness, and the ability to deal with rejection. It requires the willingness to be alone with oneself. To be gentle with oneself. To look at the world without blinders on. To observe and withstand what one sees. To be disciplined, and at the same time, take risks. To be willing to fail—not just once, but again and again, over the course of a lifetime.” - Dani Shapiro
The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. - F. Scott Fitzgerald
The F. Scott Fitzgerald quote above really highlights the state of mind in which we hold two beliefs - specifically ones that are deemed “opposite” - in consideration; judging both as neither true nor false, this simultaneous assessment allows the mind and its experiences with the world to assess each perspective in its entirety. As Shane Parrish of the @FarnamStreet platform says, this dual-perspective-assessment requires us to live in the middle of ideas, believing in them enough to take action, but not enough so they become too big of an anchor when something better comes along. Essentially: we are in charge of being our own “devil’s advocate” in an attempt to circulate truth & empathy within ourselves, and to also improve the wellbeing of those we share this earth with.
Reaching an opinion about something is already difficult enough. Reaching an ‘informed opinion’ is even more of a task, as it requires extra research and multiple different types of listening (empathetic, critical, comprehensive, etc.). Even the mere thought of examining two opposing perspectives induces cognitive dissonance (i.e.: discomfort) in the brain, causing tension and anxiety. Despite the additional effort and potential discomfort, ‘informed opinions’ are infinitely more rewarding than simple opinions or knee-jerk reactions; this is due to the fact that you’re exercising your frontal cortex capabilities that allow you to seek-out multiple different angles of a topic (articles, data, people, science, etc.), which, in the long term, promote a more interdisciplinary worldview.
Such dichotomies exist at every turn of life. They are often positioned as obverse concepts by using the word “versus” (i.e.: ‘vs.’) to sow discord: men vs. women, strategic vs. tactical, left vs. right, science vs. religion - the list goes on. When we as humans choose to digest these concepts as-arranged, they’re often (1) easier for the hyper-conditioned mind to digest, and (2) eliminate discomfort because we can choose one route and find opinion-validating “proof” along the way to support said route. HOWEVER, I firmly believe that the exploration of two antagonistic ideas and, furthermore, inviting the discomfort this exploration might cause will give birth to better outcomes.
Whether it be something as ‘macro’ as a political decision about illegal immigration, or something as ‘micro’ a fight between friends, I have always been the person that constantly overthinks “what is my POV on this matter?”. While I do consider myself to have a very powerful “gut feeling” (thanks to my self-diagnosed overactive vagus nerve, which connects the brain to the stomach), I like to step back and look at these situations through a macro-lense - where I attempt to see both sides of the “story” and, to my earlier point, play my own “devil’s advocate”. It has prompted me to ask myself questions such as “How often do I choose harmony over truth?” or “How often do I choose to avoid awkward conversations at the dinner table over digging deep to the subcutaneous emotions?”. The answer? Shamefully, I will quite often choose harmony...especially during the holidays when I come back home in an attempt to “savor” the few days I have with my family in the same state. Politically and socially, I hold different perspectives than my family members. These past four years (2016 → 2020) have done nothing but magnify this, so I wholeheartedly believe that to maintain semi-healthy relationships with my family, this dual-perspective- assessment is essential.
Here are some tactical strides I have taken to
welcome the cognitive dissonance:
Journal. Allowing yourself to sit for 5-10 minutes to identify yourself and your relationship with the surrounding environment is critical. This ability to separate your surroundings from yourself is absolutely key in getting to know oneself, and strengthening your relationship with your reactions, your emotions, and your preferences. Here is a journal prompt I’ve created for beginners to help you get started!
Read. Read anything your heart desires - fiction novels, news articles, self-help books, historical biographies, etc.. I’ve been really loving Glennon Doyle’s “Untamed”.
Listen to podcasts that invite different perspectives - whether it be news, self-help, business, etc. I’ve listed a few of my top favorite podcasts below that have taught me not only about myself, but opening my perspective, starting a business, the importance of vulnerability, and random fun facts!
Talk to people of different demographics than your own; different races, different political mindsets, different religions, etc.
Follow accounts on your social media that don’t necessarily align with your beliefs. For example: if you tend to consume your news solely from @CNN or @BuzzFeed, perhaps try following @TheWallStreetJournal, @NPR, or @Reuters that provide a bit of a ‘rounded’ report. Allow yourself to sit in the discomfort these new POV’s provide - whether or not you “believe” or “agree with” them.
Please comment and share different instances where you’ve entertained antagonistic perspectives, experienced cognitive dissonance, and/or actions you’ve taken to widen your personal perspective-aperture.