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We all spend a lot of time in our heads, and our internal narrative is mostly self-affirming. It’s human nature to fall in love with our own thinking and to assume it’s right on target. It’s not so common, but very useful, to challenge our thoughts, perceptions and conclusions from time to time.
When people disagree with us, we feel challenged, attacked or unappreciated. When others don’t love our thinking, we wonder what’s wrong with them. And, naturally, we become defensive. It’s much easier to attack our dissenters than to consider an opposing view or the possibility that our thinking is flawed. It’s not easy to embrace an opposing view as an opportunity to see things from a new and different perspective.
If we look for people who agree with and confirm our beliefs, we find them with ease. They are our “yes people.” They love the way we think. And we all feel good discussing, agreeing with and confirming one another’s views and opinions.
If we seek out those who disagree with us, we find people who challenge our ideas. They force us to refine our thinking, correct our faulty assumptions and offer alternatives to our own world view. It takes courage to invite these people into our lives when it’s so much easier to interact with those who agree with our thinking.
The problem is, if we only interact with people who agree with and confirm our views, we end up with stale, unimaginative and outdated thinking. It’s difficult to step outside the box of our own self-affirming minds. But the benefit far outweighs the risk. When we push ourselves to seek out and consider the views of our dissenters, we open our minds, invite new possibilities into our world and make innovation possible.
If we truly want to be innovative thinkers and outside-of-the-box problem solvers, we must force ourselves outside the box of our self-affirming minds. We must challenge ourselves to engage openly and enthusiastically with those who disagree with us most. By making this a practice, we might learn to love some different kinds of thinking.
This blog does not represent official policies of the Corporation for National and Community Service or those of the U.S. Government.
Jeffrey Page is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.