It’s hard to empathize with other people’s beliefs if they’ve experienced parts of the world you have not, if they have encountered situations you have not.
Everyone’s a little bit blind to how the world works, and when they think they’re disagreeing with someone else they’re actually just uncovering an experience they haven’t had.
Jason Zweig of the The Wall Street Journal wrote recently:
“If I ask you in a questionnaire whether you are afraid of snakes, you might say no. If I throw a live snake in your lap and then ask if you’re afraid of snakes, you’ll probably say yes — if you ever talk to me again.”
The distance between how one feels about a particular topic & how you feel can be miles wide if you’ve not experienced it yourself.
There are different theories that big wars tend to happen after 20 to 40 years because that’s the amount of time it takes to cycle through a new generation of voters, politicians, and army personnel who have not experienced a war lately & have no impressions of the last war.
If you take a high-level view of economic theories, financial bubbles, etc. everything magically follows a similar path.
Though one can study history & learn from previous generations genuine fear and uncertainty feel like cannot be recreated so easily.
At the same time, if you try and see the world through the lens of the other individual in disagreements, most things could be easily sorted & handled.
Nassim Taleb summarizes this well when he says, “If something looks irrational — and has been so for a long time — odds are you have a wrong definition of rationality.”
To remain rational & open-minded one should often try & surround oneself with a diverse group of people and a few questions to ourselves at regular intervals:
-What is my world view & how it would have been if I had lived in different circumstances?
-What problems is the world currently facing that will eventually affect me?
-If I had faced this situation before how would my response have change to it?