"Ah, so you must..."

I've been helping with a new book on problem-solving (it's months away, so don't get too excited yet), and my radar for jumping-to-conclusions has been on overdrive lately. 

At a few gatherings with friends, I overheard the following:

"Kasich is probably the best alternative for the Republicans at this point."
"Unless you're a woman or work in a union."

It's a pretty decisive jump, and very good at shutting down a conversation, putting someone on the defensive, and scoring points. As it happens, Kasich won his gubernatorial election in 2014 with a strong edge among women and more support among union households than he did in his first race. So it's not only an oversimplification, but it's probably not entirely accurate, either.

The other one I heard a few days back:

"I'm frustrated with Netanyahu's policy of building in the West Bank. It feels like apartheid."
"So you don't mind if Israel is destroyed?"

Yet another friend was told that supporting Republicans meant that they wanted to "murder black babies." A number of Democrats I know have been told that they must want to turn the United States into a Soviet-style communist state. It obviously gets pretty silly. 

Such knee-jerk reactions when we hear something we don't like are fairly natural. But they're based on a fairly absurd caricature of people that seem to disagree with us: when we go tribal, we disarm ourselves of critical thinking. Unless we are on our guard, we will shut down our brains and kill any chance of learning or convincing. 

You might be surprised to find people supporting candidates or holding certain positions for reasons you hadn't guessed. This PhD immigrant, for example, is supporting Trump, and is happy to tell you why. Some traditionally-conservative Republicans are supporting Sanders

Next time you hear someone take a position and your brain jumps to, "ah, so you must..." try asking an elaborating question instead. You may be delighted at the results.

--Erik

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Erik Fogg

US political and cultural dialogue is broken, and we intend to change that. We're starting by giving you Something to Consider.