Many years ago, I had a dear friend who was nothing at all like me. She was a Jewish liberal working toward her PhD. I was a Catholic conservative and proud owner of an associate degree. But we were friends anyway. Mostly because although on the surface we were very different, at our core we were very similar. We both cared. A lot.

We discussed everything and we often were at polar ends of the issue. However, we were both able to listen to the other person and consider her point of view. We learned a great deal from each other, neither totally abandoning her perspective on the world, but both modifying her approach.

When you listen only to people who agree with your already preconceived notions, you don’t learn a damn thing. It’s like listening to yourself talk. When you listen, really listen, to those who don’t agree with you, you have a chance to learn something new.

I am far more liberal today for having known Nancy. I owe her a debt of gratitude. Without her perspective, I might be even more rigid than I am. This would not be a good thing. Even saying this, I did not abandon my hopes and dreams for myself or the world around me, but slightly modified the approach when her perspective made more sense.

With algorithms sorting the internet to offer you what you might already like, you could be missing out on your Nancy. By only listening to the news from the source you already agree with, you might be missing out on important non confirmation bias items. The world is conspiring to make us more polarized by hiding different perspectives.

Go out of your way to find your own Nancy. Someone who will thoughtfully and lovingly offer up a different way to see the problem and offer completely different solutions. Offer your own counterpoints as a way of clarification, because presenting a cogent argument means you have to really understand what you are proposing. Reach out to see all the different ways to view a problem and all the different possible solutions.

Abraham Maslow said, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” If all you have is your own narrow perspective, you might miss some of the best answers to whatever questions you have. It is a bit scary to challenge yourself and allow other ideas to enter into your sphere. But it is well worth getting more tools in your toolbox. Listen kindly and openly. Listen to understand rather than to respond. Listen with your heart. Learn something new.

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