Newspapers & Conversations

Over the past 30 or so years, I’ve done a moderate amount of airline travel. Back in the day, you could count on at least 90% of fellow passengers reading the paper during the flight. Out of Oakland, we’d have the Tribune, Chronicle, USA Today, or maybe the Wall Street Journal. Flying home a passenger would probably pick up a local from the city they were visiting. On a given flight, the person next to me might be reading a Glen Dickey column ripping Joe Montana. (Yes. Dickey not only ripped Joe, he ripped Willie Mays. If he was still writing, he’d probably find something to rip Steph Curry about.) Please pardon the digression. I might ask my fellow passenger if I could read the article when he was finished. More times than not, he’d let me and then we’d talk about it. 30,000 feet in the air with nowhere to go, real life common ground. While we all had our own opinions, we got our news from the same places. We interpreted the news based on our experiences.

Today as I took a short flight to San Diego for a one day trip, absolutely no one was reading the paper. Passengers were working on their laptops, playing games on their tablets, or sleeping. With news coming to us digitally the overwhelming majority of what we read and listen to is what we already agree with. Some watch Fox because they agree with Fox. Others watch MSNBC because they agree with MSNBC. English psychologist, Peter Watson coined the term confirmation bias; “the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypothesis.” Watson came up with that in 1960 predating the digital age by many years.

Is it possible for everyday citizens like us to buld common ground? I say yes but we can’t count on politicians to do it for us, we have to do it ourselves. The solution is conversation. Civil discussions with people we disagree with will help us learn the nuances of opinions. We can empathize, respect, and have relationships with people with whom we disagree while still staying true to our values. Actor, Dylan Marron says it best, “empathy is not endorsement”.

Is there someone you’re ready to cut off communication because you disagree with them? I encourage you to try something revolutionary. Engage them in conversation without trying to change their mind. You might learn something, they might learn something and both of you might realize you have more in common than you think.

%d bloggers like this: