Can we sympathize with our enemies? An author wants us to try.

The other four sections, “Curiosity”, “People”, “Pathways” and “Honesty”, combine interviews, examples, charts and bullet points with key phrases to remember, such as “express your concerns” and ” pause and persist”. They detail how and when to engage in discussions with those in different blocs (and, importantly, when not to). Guzmán’s prescription for the ills of our society is to replace certainty with curiosity, to stop seeing people as representatives of groups we can reject and instead see them as individuals whose backgrounds inform their beliefs. She writes: “If there’s one question I want to persuade you to ask more often, it’s ‘What am I missing? “”

Then, says Guzmán, it becomes possible to have what she calls INTOIT moments (for “I Never Thought of It That Way”), in which you see the person behind the policy. Just as the path to better health is often through disappointing technology – no magic bullets but the boring and difficult trivialities of sleep hygiene and mindful eating – the cure for bias is the simple and understated of the conversation. But, of course, simple does not mean easy.

Guzmán writes that she has happily lost herself in interviews with people she has little in common with, seeing their differing opinions as invitations to learn rather than direct threats to her beliefs. I would have liked more cathartic stories of connection, more direct examples of what it looks like; I didn’t have as many INTOIT moments reading it as I would have hoped. I was drawn to the title because as a frequent opinion piece writer, that’s the reaction I hope to elicit. Not “You are right”, but rather “Interesting point”. But while I am professionally bound to consider viewpoints that diverge from my own, and enjoy the emotional and mental workout this can provide, interpersonally I am often intractable, demanding that close friends see things my way.

Guzmán’s lesson seems to be that I should let go of the need to be right and focus on the need to stay connected. The greatest offering of the book, I think, is the permission to reclaim people we might have dumped for ideological reasons; such relationships will not defile us but may in fact enrich us. I can see this book helping distant parties who are also invested in bridging a gap — it could be assigned to read for fractured families yearning for a harmonious Thanksgiving dinner.

Would these same techniques work on a larger scale, in a country where 62% of Americans do not feel safe expressing their political opinions, while the right and left are so extreme that more and more people are saying without political shelter every day? Perhaps partly because I live in a politically segregated world, I often disagree with members of my own party. Can a book like Guzmán’s push us beyond intraparty battles over race and gender? National crises over infrastructure and abortion?

About Karren Campbell

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