Mr Dan Addis, one of our Joint Heads of Academic Scholarship, discusses the benefits of considering the opinions of others, as offered through our weekly Tea and T’inking club here at WHS.
It is very reassuring to read an article, listen to a podcast, or read a blog that asserts your own opinion at you. “Thank goodness! I was right all along!”
That’s the important thing isn’t it? Being right. Now, you have evidence backing your own view. You are not the only person who thinks this way. Other people important enough to be published in some medium think this way. Therefore, they must be right and you must be right. Moreover, all you see is the same information reiterated in your News feed, Instagram account, or amongst your friends. This corroborates your view. The opinion you had which was a small delicate thing is growing and hardening, becoming a wall to keep your psyche safe from thoughts that it assumes might damage it. Your confidence grows. Your surety of opinion flourishes.
In a world where fragile mental health is much more prevalent (or at least people are becoming more aware of it), this confidence in one’s opinion can be a positive thing. The community feel of shared opinion is also very intoxicating. Not only do we feel that we are right and are comforted by the presence of others with the same opinion, we also have a sense of community in a world so open it can be intimidating. The comments section of a blog post or a reddit chain can become a supportive group of like-minded friends. Positive isn’t it?
Well, I would argue no.
I’d like to refer back to the wall analogy I used earlier. Walls are fantastic for protection from outside forces that might harm us. They make us feel safe and secure. If you speak to a person without any walls to protect them, then you might recognise how valuable walls can be. But speak to a person who only has walls and no way of escaping them. Then walls become an enemy, a blight, the cause of pain, suffering and depression. The same can happen in our mind. By constantly reiterating a certain set of values and opinions, we can feel comfortable, but we can also become shut in, closeted away from information and facts that might help us grow and progress. The outside of the mental walls becomes the enemy, the dangerous, the damaging.
We approach these outside opinions in several ways. Mostly we ignore them, maligning them as idiotic or even pitying those who hold these views that cannot possibly be right. Sometimes we attack them, aggressively shouting down those who hold these views either for their stupidity or for their ignorance. We are building these walls higher and higher to differentiate ourselves from those outside.
However, there is another option: opening the metaphorical door.
Include other thoughts and ideas into discussion. Acknowledge other people’s views with openness and desire to learn. No one view is 100% correct. There are many shades of grey in most issues and having an awareness of them not only increases your knowledge, it helps you have discussions with others with opposing views.
Understandably, there are some issues with this approach. If you try to engage with someone who holds an opposing view but is not willing to compromise or discuss evenly, then it can be trying. It is tiresome to review points over and over and not reach a conclusion. In addition, it can be difficult to break this self-perpetuating cycle of distrust between opposing views.
Furthermore, the main issue is usually to do with ignorance not idiocy. The only cure for ignorance is learning, but the negativity that people of certain opinions have towards those who do not automatically agree can be suffocating. It is understandable that one might want to stay in their protective walled opinion fortress. What is needed is a safe space where you can learn information contrary to your held beliefs. A space where any question is acceptable. A space where you can discuss issues from a variety of viewpoints in a positive and constructive way.
Tea and T’inking can be this space for you. Come along challenge your preconceptions. At Wimbledon, our metaphorical walls are the socialist liberal middle class sphere that the vast majority of us inhabit. Burst that Bollinger Bolshevik Bubble, not in an aggressive manner but calmly, with a cup of tea.
Tea and T’inking is a weekly club held at WHS for girls in Year 9-13 who are invited to come along, have a cup of tea, and discuss a variety of topics, opening minds and creating debate. Please see Mr Addis if you’d like to pop along to the next session.