Even though we’re at a time of increasing ideological tension, sometimes the right book can make a person think about something in a new way despite an opposing ideology. It turns out that you can at least soothe things over if you’re willing to step back and let someone else air his point of view.
I just learned that often-controversial radio show host, Glenn Beck, is one of the latest people to realize how important it is to give space to differences of opinion. He came upon this in reading Pendulum: How Past Generations Shape Our Present and Predict Our Future by Roy H. Williams and Michael R. Drew. Beck spoke on a recent broadcast about how Pendulum is giving him insights into where we are now. Briefly, Pendulum posits that society shifts on an invisible pendulum every 40 years or so, swinging from me-centric attitude to a we-centric, community-minded one. And at a point in each cycle, we tend to take things too far, and so what was good begins to break down into uncontrolled selfishness, as can happen as a ME Cycle continues, or in hostile finger-pointing, in a WE Cycle.
We’re entering a time in our current WE Cycle when people are beginning to lash out at others for not conforming to whatever the prevailing point of view is. Williams and Drew call this a time of “I’m okay, you’re not okay,” which can lead to witch hunts and a breakdown in the social order. If you’ve seen the ugly discourse surrounding the presidential elections, and the fomenting of aggressive, hostile attitudes. But a book might change minds as Pendulum seems to have done.
Beck says that after reading Pendulum, he realized that to avoid the devastating consequences of social witch hunts, it’s important first, to “be an example and listen.” Then, he said, people need to “be capable of articulating calmly how the other side sees it. So not only do you have to listen, you have to be able to say, ‘Okay. So here’s how the other side sees it.'”
As anyone knows who’s seen certain recent Facebook posts, a lot of people aren’t doing that: they’re speaking to a closed circle of like-minded followers, and they don’t want to hear anyone else.
Beck says, though, he’s finding, as Pendulum has pointed out, that if you show yourself willing to listen to others, then others are perhaps more willing to listen to you. “That makes me question absolutely everything,” Beck says in his broadcast. “However, it shows the other side is willing to listen for the first time and because they see that maybe somebody is listening.”
Beck is discovering that what we describe in Pendulum is something that can actually be applied to the world around us, if people simply take the action of balancing what you take a strong stand against or speak out against with that willingness to listen to people. It’s important, he says, that we “don’t demonize.”
And coming up on September 9, Pendulum coauthor Roy H. Williams will be a guest on Beck’s show, to discuss Pendulum, and to chat with Beck about where we are now as a society, and how we can move forward by actually paying attention to someone else’s point of view. You may not agree with Beck on a lot of things, but as he said, it pays to give the other person time to express his point of view – because when you do that, the other person is much more likely to listen to what you have to say.
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