Any good parent reminds their young children to look both ways before crossing the street. It’s also a great way to symbolize the need to understand both issues before you launch into an argument.
What happens if you look one way, and then you take off across the street? Either there was no car coming and you get hit, or there was and you’re dead or seriously injured.
The more you’re able to get across the street looking only one direction, the more likely you are to continue this practice. It won’t be until you experience a close call that you rethink your decision. In parallel, the more you ignore other people’s opinions, the easier it will be to continue doing so and your mind becomes more and more closed. In the end, it is only harmful to you.
Being a Christian, a lot of the time my opinions are in the minority. I’m stereotyped and judged quickly once I reveal my faith. But, ironically, before I do, people seem to assume that I’m not religious, probably because I’m a physics major (a field with few religious students) at a liberal public university (which hosts drag queen pageants and is known for its parties). I already wrote a pretty lengthy post about judgment, about which I still feel very strongly. Read it here.
So, to my point: because of my experiences around people very different from me, I have learned the value in seeing both sides of an issue. I can even defend, pretty strongly, the opposite argument. It doesn’t change my own opinion. Sometimes I do defend the other opinion, only for the purpose of convincing those on my own side that our opponents are not trying to do evil.
Take my article on abortion, for example. Note that I give my opinion first (which is not based on religion), and then I present the other opinions. Isn’t this how we’re taught to write persuasive papers in elementary school? What happened to that? Presenting both sides gives you much more credibility.
In addition, being able to understand both sides certainly won’t hurt your reputation. People listen to me because I get it and can make an informed rebuttal. When you can’t come up with anything else to say and just start name-calling, that’s when their impression of you and your opinion goes down the drain. It hurts anyone associated with your beliefs.
Most of the articles I write are not for the purpose of convincing everyone that my opinion is the right opinion. Rather, I’d only like those with opposing opinions to understand why I think the way I do. It’s not because I’m uninformed or bigoted or stupid, and you’ll see that if you take the time to listen (or read, and if I am uninformed, I’ll ask you to inform me!). Likewise, those opposed to me are not necessarily any of the above, either. (Some are, and I know that some people who share my overall beliefs can be just as bad.)
So, look both ways before you cross. Gather information from both sides. Even if you think the opposing side is disgusting and seriously wrong, you need to understand why they think that way. If people actually coexist, instead of just putting the bumper sticker on the car, the world would be a much better place.