With so many opinions circulating the web in regards to the pandemic, and just politics as a whole, it can be an extremely challenging time to engage with other people. Let alone try to empathize with them.
As a for instance, my mother is very fearful of the covid-19 vaccines and doesn’t want me to take them. I posted on social media that I had pre-registered for my vaccine appointment, to which she had berated me with information from Independent sources, FOX news, and, what I considered to be, otherwise unrepeatable sources. To which I grew extremely frustrated, especially considering I had also posted that same day about a man coming around my building asking for girls, potentially trying to abduct some of us, to which my mother did not respond. It was just the vaccine link which she felt was a risk to my safety, and not other external sources which I felt were much more pressing.
I was quick to roll my eyes at the posts and ignore them. And in fact, I grew rampantly upset by the posts in general. I was frustrated she was presenting information to me that, albeit that were not from reliable sources, that contradicted my personal belief.
She then urged me not to get the vaccine and even so far as begged me not to take it. She also called me saying she would put her life on this, and that I should not take the vaccine, as it could be “deadly”.
Now this is entirely against my personal belief, as I do not feel that a solution can possibly be “deadly” especially if it was designed by doctors and scientists who dedicated their entire lives to helping people. I trust the doctors, and I trust science.
But rather than get upset with my mom, I decided to watch the clips she had sent me and genuinely considered her perspective. I understand it is a relatively new vaccine, and her biggest concern is the long-term health conditions which could result. To her defence, those long-term conditions are unknown, but as I read other articles, there is very little chance that something new from this vaccine might effect me and my health somehow down the line in a devastating way. I don’t agree with my mom, but that isn’t to say her concerns aren’t valid.
And that was it. It came down to a disagreement, we are both adults who are allowed to discuss and decide for ourselves. I explained to her my perspective, and she hers. I did my best to understand that she truly does believe what she found online, and if she believes it to the intensity and urgency that she projected to me, I would have to be sympathetic to her and not take her priority, the vaccine over the man in my building, to heart.
I could also appreciate the fact that she was messaging me out of care, and not with malicious intent. She is not trying to hurt me, she is simply trying to look out for my best interest which I can appreciate.
Now, the issue of close-minded or stubborn people is far more complex then just this, as some people are close-minded without much of anyone’s best interest at heart. Patience is required for them.
But the best way to approach any given situation where you feel you are dealing with someone close-minded, is to assume first and foremost that the close-minded one is you. Once you can consider their perspective in its entirety, and then re-evaluate yours, only then can you disagree. But in doing so, you will be approaching the topic from a much more empathetic stance, as you can understand where the other person is coming from rather than trying to dispel their ignorance. To first assume that it is you who is ignorant, is the only way to end close-mindedness. Especially when the topic at hand does not directly impact you and your personal life.
A moment by which I was close-minded where I had thought I was not being close-minded at all:
TW: mentions of micro-aggresions, racism.
I was talking to a peer of mine about the communist manifesto. This person and I were romantically involved and I wanted to impress them with my leftist values, and the notes I had taken from my lecture. I approached the topic from the perspective of one trying to educate another rather than an open dialogue. I was trying to impress them, and I really only discussed the manifesto and socialism/ Marxism holistically from a North American perspective since that was the perspective I was taught in lecture and was the most familiarized with.
My peer wanted to discuss the topic from a global political perspective, to which I had shot down that idea. Since I was trying to impress him, why would I discuss it from a perspective that I wasn’t as informed on? Especially if my goal was to get him to like and respect me.
He became angry at me, and stated I was being racist. I wasn’t sure how at first, and I was quite confused. “I wasn’t, was I? Well I was trying to impress him so clearly I was not. He just didn’t understand my intention.” These were my initial thoughts unfortunately. But I wasn’t quick to dispel them, he had just forgiven me and we moved on from it. Agreed to disagree, but I felt hurt by the accusation, and it wasn’t until months passed from the initial conversation, and it came up again.
As first I was angry and asked why he taught this was racist. I thought we were just having a discussion and I just wanted to impress him. Why was that wrong? But he was clearly upset and I knew he was probably right. But I just couldn’t see how, or why. And so,
I asked him to please educate me on how the references I was making were racist, as I did not understand at all.
He then calmly explained that if we look at Socialist values from a North American perspective, we are not considering the global impact, he explained that other countries across the world are just now starting to reap the benefits of Capitalism that America and Canada have been benefitting from for centuries. And just because Capitalism no longer works for us, if we were to switch to socialism, it would have an impact on other countries as well, which I was completely disregarding since I only wanted to discuss the topic from one narrow-perspective. He explained that it was rude to put him into a position where he had to discuss global politics without asking if he was comfortable with it, as he would be put into a position where he would have to educate me on issues and topics directly related to race. Which was something I might not have considered due to my white privilege, but he explained it is exhausting to be put into a position as such, and that I should have asked him first if he was in the mental space to engage in a conversation like that at that time. Or if at all.
That was a moment which I thought I was being open-minded, where it turned out I wasn’t. I thought I was considering low income individuals affected by poverty due to Capitalism in North America, but I had not considered the impact of a political shift from a global perspective as he stated. In addition to that, I shut him down and told him we could not discuss the topic from a global perspective, all while forcing him to engage in a political conversation which touched on race, that I was oblivious to, which was racist. I was being a d***. But I didn’t realize I was at the time. In fact, I thought I was being insightful and progressive.
This is not to say he was right, or that I was right, in regard to Marxism. But he was right in that I was being close-minded, and I ended up agreeing with a lot of what he had said. It just goes to show that I was being close minded by shutting down his perspective in an effort to impress him. Which in and of itself is quite narrow-minded. And stubborn.
He accepted my apology and said he also felt sorry that I felt he was shutting me down intellectually, since he knew I was trying to impress him, but he should not have had to apologize for that. I just didn’t think I was being close-minded, but I was happy to learn I was.
TW: Mental Health
Another example by which a girl approached me, thinking she was going to educate me on a topic that I had already considered her perspective on.
I had made a TikTok and posted it to my social media, where I narrated my experiences with mental health. I got a message from a friend from school who approached me with an assumed intellectual superiority. I interpreted her message as arrogant and entitled. She had asked me to take my post down, because she felt only people who experience mental illness should be allowed to speak on mental health and if I wanted to post about mental health, I would also have to share my personal story with it. She also explained that only those with a diagnosis should speak on mental health, and no one else should. She said if I was trying to romanticize or glamorize mental illness I should take the post down. Especially if I don’t personally experience it.
I was VERY offended. I felt that I should not have to explain my own experiences with mental health or my medical history with her, and I still don’t feel I owe that to the reader of this article. I explained to her that what she was stating was classist and that a diagnosis is a privilege not everyone can afford, and additionally, if I had a diagnosis, she was not entitled to that information. I then disclosed to her that everything I portrayed in the video clip was a personal experience that I expressed as a therapeutic way through art. But I also told her that by pressuring me to disclose that, she made me uncomfortable. I explained that since I put a trigger warning, I should not receive criticism. It is my account and I should post on it accordingly.
We were at an impasse. She apologized for her assumption, and I did my best to understand her side of it also. I do understand that mental health is a serious topic, I just feel it should be an accessible one also. We were at a disagreement, but at least we could each try to understand from the others perspective. This opened up a dialogue.
I would have preferred she had not come to me in such an arrogant fashion, and once she realized she might have been wrong, or that we were at an impasse, and I wasn’t in fact ignorant, I just disagreed with her, we could have explored it further together. But unfortunately, the world is not so clear-cut. We all live our lives with a different lens and a different viewpoint. We all see the world from a different perspective. Only when we challenge our pre-existing views can change ensue. We all smugly believe we are right and that all those around us are stupid. And yet, we are all quite wrong.
Another example, I was once in a situation where I had a girl friend. She was super sweet and we had a lot of fun together. She was into hookup culture and I always supported that for her. She also told me about some of her hookup experiences with older men, her preference, which I supported. However, she put me into an uncomfortable situation, knowing full well I am NOT comfortable with getting sexual attention from older men in the way she is, and then I had to end the friendship, as she called me immature for it. I also didn’t want to ONLY talk about boys and sex. I wanted more depth to a friendship. As you can see, I did nothing wrong. But I didn’t share my side of that story with anyone as I didn’t want to disrespect her and I don’t believe in putting people down. HOWEVER, guess what she did? She went around and told everyone I didn’t support her having one-night stands, and that I wasn’t okay with her having sex with older men and of course I was considered the bad guy and not her. Lovely. So, STOP ASSUMING you know the full story. Stop judging people without knowing the full story. Most people with good character don’t care to share their side of things, and then they get ridiculed publicly for it. So….. yeah.
So what is the moral of these four personal examples?
It is best to allow room for the possibility that it is you who could be the close-minded person in any given conversation first. And evidently, even if you are right, you could still be right AND close-minded. Since you refuse to consider the other person’s perspective and empathize with their reasoning.
The only way to overcome frustrations, is to first assume you are wrong, and then prove to yourself that you are right. Only then can we all be more open-minded and empathetic to others.
So the answer to dealing with close-minded individuals? My opinion (and it is only an opinion) is to assume that the close-minded one is, in fact, you.