5 Ways to Start Discerning More - and Arguing Less

I think far too often, people are too quick to outrage. Yes, there are things we should  get angry about. Yes, there need to be amends when anyone is harmed physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. 

However, sometimes people just say or do stupid things, and pointing out their mistake in a humiliating way or arguing to convince them they're wrong never works. I think we miss far too many opportunities to have conversations and understand other perspectives, which helps everyone learn. The truth is, we all just want to be understood.

Discernment is not an easy skill to learn. It takes time and patience and a desire to understand ourselves and others. It’s much easier to jump to conclusions based on our own experiences and assumptions.... but mastering discernment is key to building inclusion.

Here are just a few ideas that may help:

  1. Pay attention to your emotions. We learn our ideas of right/wrong and good/bad from the groups of people we belong to, and most of those ideas are ingrained in our brains by the time we’re 5 or 6 years old. When we encounter people who behave differently from us, we may feel frustrated or angry about their behavior. When we notice how we feel, we can begin to discern why we’re feeling what we’re feeling. What does their behavior represent? Is it really “wrong,” or is it just different from how we do things? Might they still value the same things we value?

  2. Understand context. Too often, I hear people getting upset over things that are taken completely out of context, for example, books, movies, or songs that now are considered racist or sexist. Understanding context means that we understand the concepts and language used in them was common for the time in which they were written. Does it make those concepts or language right, now or then? Nope. But it does give us a teaching opportunity. Rather than trying to ban them, talk about them.

  3. Ask yourself: “Is it true, or is it just true for me?” There is a difference between actual truth and personal truth. Personal truth comes from our experiences, which may or may not align with actual truth. It’s human nature to unconsciously assume, “If it’s true for me, then it’s true for everyone,” but that’s definitely not the case. It’s important to remember that we all have different experiences that lead to our different perspectives.

  4. Widen your circle. This can help a lot with answering the question to #3. We tend to hang out with people who are just like us, so we have more data to discern that there are both “good” and “bad” people in our group. When something bad happens with somebody outside of our usual circle, and that is the only interaction we’ve had with someone from “that other” group, we tend to all of a sudden look at the entire group as “bad,” which simply isn’t true. Instead, it’s our data that is limited.

  5. Practice a better response. Instead of getting angry when you see a behavior that is different from yours or hear something that you would deem “offensive,” a simple, “Can you help me understand?” can diffuse conflict and be the initial step towards learning and resolution.

When we build our discernment skills, we build inclusion because we not only learn other perspectives, we learn more about ourselves, too. We start to recognize that we don’t have to agree with someone else’s perspective to understand them. And guess what? We can both be right.

 

©2020 Susan McCuistion