In May, I spent most of the month working as the substitute teacher in the freshman global studies class at our local high school. My favorite days were the ones when we had discussion prompts and they voiced their opinions.
These days reminded me of the power inherent in discussion. Note, I’m not talking about arguments or one-sided lectures.
Discussion involves a sharing of multiple viewpoints.
I admit, I played the Devil’s Advocate when I could. I took portions of what they offered up in their claims and twisted it to represent the opposite viewpoint in a better light. Sound perspectives from early classes were used to foster discussion in later ones.
And it made me smile. The eight hours of constant interaction generally zap me. I leave the high school feeling like a zombie in need of a long hibernation.
But not on those discussion days. Because the brain-stimulating charge from the discussion kept the fatigue at bay. Powerful and empowering: discussion.
Power of Thought
Some topics are thought-provoking. Other topics might not be all that interesting until presented in a way that speaks to the place a person lives.
In either case, discussion requires a brain to wake up and get to work.
Believe me when I tell you the youth I interact with in public school don’t do as much thinking as they should. Instead, they’re spoon fed information to regurgitate as test answers.
Not the case for a discussion. Although, I can tell you it was clear when students supplied a regurgitated answer. When asked questions about it or to give a logical path between the question and their answer, they were stumped.
Deep thinking requires analysis and evaluation. Information is input into our brain and when it comes out our mouths it’s been synthesized through our worldview, experiences, values and additional knowledge.
Power of Understanding
One of the biggest powers of discussion is its ability to impart understanding. This isn’t in the form of facts. It’s in the form of mind-expanding.
In a discussion, another side we hadn’t considered is presented. The reasoning behind that viewpoint is explained. A lightbulb goes on.
Even if we aren’t convinced by this shared information, we’re suddenly aware of where the “other side” comes from.
We understand their way of thinking, the process of their logic. Suddenly, there isn’t just a right way and a wrong way. Or even a my way and their way.
True understanding opens the avenue of compassion. This isn’t the road to tolerance or even acceptance. It’s a path that says, “You can get there a different way.” Even if it isn’t the shortest or fastest route, it isn’t wrong either. Just different.
And diversity should be appreciated.
Power to Compromise
Most things in the world don’t have to be one way. This is the biggest outcome to open discussion. Open discussion being that where everyone listens and everyone has input. People talk and their words are heard and considered as valuable.
Compromise is rarely the path of least resistance. Its very nature requires concessions from both sides.
As long as either side sticks with an unbending will, there can be no meeting in the middle.
However, compromise can agree to disagree. We don’t have to think exactly alike to be able to work together for a better world.
To work together, though, we’ll have to put a sock in our pride. We can’t look down our nose at the other side because that breeds contempt and resentment.
If I have the cure for cancer, does it matter if the cancer patient believes the same way I do about politics or religion or even the best way to administer the cure? Won’t it cure them no matter what they believe?
But if I withhold the cure to use as a “lever” to sway those other beliefs, I’m guilty of inhumanity.
What do you see as the powers of open discussion between people with various viewpoints?