Let’s hope the new one works better.
A few years ago, for a New Year’s resolution, I decided I would try to change my mind about something at least once a month. It turned out to be way too easy.
I started with politics — we are a polarized nation and I’ve got plenty of opinions about why the other side’s policies are so awful. But if the US is split close to 50/50 on most of these issues, I can’t possibly believe that 160 million people are dead wrong. Or stupid. Or misguided.
So I decided to approach my beliefs the way I did when I was debating in high school. I had to prepare myself to be able to articulate and defend a certain side of an argument, but I had to do so without knowing until right before the debate which side I would need to argue for.
The more I did this, the more I realized how shallow so many of my opinions were, and that this way of thinking could not only be applied to big topics like educational reform, homelessness, gun control, immigration, environmental policies, criminal justice, and racial equality, but to smaller and equally heated topics like — to name two recent ones — password sharing on Netflix and the recent writers strike. (And boy, I’m not kidding about the password-sharing thing being heated — it’s gotten so I’m scared to wade into my TikTok comments).
It’s been liberating because I no longer spend my time building the case for why I’m right. I now spend most of my cycles trying to figure out why they think they are.
It has changed my perspective on almost every topic I’ve looked at. But what has surprised me most about the exercise is that in almost every instance, changing my mind didn’t mean flipping from one side to the other, but simply meant moving closer to the center. It meant acknowledging that these were complicated and nuanced answers that didn’t have any right answer. Or more frequently, would require partially unsatisfactory outcomes for both sides to agree on, accept, and move on.
I’ve still got a way to go. I’m still trying to work out exactly why people are so vehemently opposed to the password-sharing crackdown . . . but I promise I’m working on it.
A version of this originally appeared here