“It was definitely difficult at first, living in Oregon,” the man murmured. I sat beside him on the pale purple polyester window seat in the recovery area of the Bloodmobile. He was a security guard at the mall the Red Cross was stationed at today, currently on his lunch break. I had only met him a few minutes earlier, when he had first joined me in the back of the bus for a quick drink and bite to eat. The crook of his elbow bore the signature red gauze of a proud blood donor, and the putrid yellow dye of iodine still stained his skin near the puncture site on his arm. Yet the officer seemed completely at ease, void of any physical discomfort as he rambled on about his experience moving to the Pacific Northwest.
“The extreme liberalism was an immense culture shock for me. I tend to have more conservative views, especially regarding gun laws and such – you know, being an officer and all that.” He paused to take a swig of water before continuing. “One of my coworkers – who incidentally, would also become one of my best friends – was just about as far left as you can get,” he exclaimed. I was fascinated by the nature of this man’s relationship with his friend, and wondered how he was able to maintain such a close friendship with a man of views so disparate from his own.
“Did you ever talk about politics with your friend?” I tentatively asked.
“Oh, for sure! We got into huge debates about everything at first, as would be expected when you put together two people with starkly different perspectives. But you know, we never left a single argument angry at each other, and in fact I think our disputes actually brought us closer together. After a few months, we realized that his views had moved slightly more towards the right, while mine had shifted more towards the left. Interesting how that worked out, don’t you think?”
Indeed, I found the officer’s story far more intriguing than he had probably imagined, and his words left a profound impact on me. When in disagreement with another person, I often find myself trying to convince them that my opinion is better than theirs, and the conversation turns into an argument of who is right. After conversing with the security guard, I realized that forcing my beliefs onto someone else does not draw me closer to them, but rather has the opposite effect – it wedges us further apart. Instead, I found that a more productive conversation involves both parties trying to understand why the other person believes whatever they believe, as this prevents false assumptions and allows both sides to sympathize with each other.
With this mindset, I have begun to discover new perspectives that I had previously glazed over, while also engaging in more fulfilling conversations. Academically, this slight mental shift has prompted me to become more receptive towards unfamiliar ideas that may have repelled me in the past. This has revolutionized learning for me, as now every foreign concept becomes an opportunity for me to reevaluate myself. Sometimes this solidifies my resolve in my preexisting beliefs, while other times it prompts me to question my views of the world. With an open mind, I have also begun to take part in countless wonderful conversations with the people in my life, and as a result I have formed friendships with people I would have never connected with before. Everyone has something special to offer, and I was limiting myself by refusing to listen. The fifteen-minute conversation I had with the mall security guard made me realize how I was shutting myself off from an entire world of knowledge and meaning, and shifting my mindset has opened my eyes to countless perspectives that had been hidden in front of me all along.