When us humans lived in caves (maybe some of us still do, no judgment here), our survival percentage increased if we lived in a tribe. The larger the tribe, the higher the chance of our survival, and this makes sense. It's easier to hunt a wooly mammoth with a group rather than on your own. This is how our human ancestors lived hundreds of thousands of years ago and their biological hardwiring has passed down to us.
Because our present day brains are almost identical to our ancestors, our quirky, sometimes questionable modern day behaviors can be explained by this fact.
The truth kind of matters
Humans need to have a foundational view of the world that is somewhat accurate in order to survive. You can't just jump off a building thinking the rules of gravity doesn't apply to you. But after a reasonable accurate view of the world has been established, there seems to be a divergent between facts and the need to belong.
As mentioned, humans are tribal creatures. The more we fit in, the higher the chances of our survival. Today's survival has less to do with fending off sabertooth tiger attacks, and has more to do with wanting to bond with others and earning the respect and approval from our peers.
Once the minimum threshold of understanding life's truths has been met, we sometimes find ourselves abandoning our personal beliefs in order to establish a strong social connection with others. Steven Pinker, a Harvard psychologist said, "People are embraced or condemned according to their beliefs, so one function of the mind may be to hold beliefs that bring the belief-holder the greatest number of allies, protectors, or disciples, rather than beliefs that are most likely to be true.”
Our beliefs and actions are not always driven by facts. A lot of times we do things because we feel it will make us more likeable to the people we care about.
This awareness brings clarity on why we sometimes go out at night with a group of friends when we don't really want to or why we don't say our true thoughts during a dinner party because it might be a opposing point of view from the majority. This behavior is not all bad though, we can use this knowledge of human behavior to help the change the minds of others.
friends over facts
Trying to change someones mind is not as simple as it sounds. What we're really trying to do is convince the person to change the beliefs of their current tribe. If they abandon the beliefs, they are running the risk of outcasting themselves. This obviously will result in resistance. No one wants to change their viewpoint if social loneliness is going to be the outcome.
In order to effectively change someone's mind we first have to make sure they have a safe place to land after they do. If a friendship is offered and a new social circle becomes available, the risk of social outcasting has diminished and the likelihood of the person's viewpoint changing increases.
The British philosopher Alain de Botton once suggested that we should simply share a meal with people we disagree with:
“Sitting down at a table with a group of strangers has the incomparable and odd benefit of making it a little more difficult to hate them with impunity. Prejudice and ethnic strife feed off abstraction. However, the proximity required by a meal – something about handing dishes around, unfurling napkins at the same moment, even asking a stranger to pass the salt – disrupts our ability to cling to the belief that the outsiders who wear unusual clothes and speak in distinctive accents deserve to be sent home or assaulted. For all the large-scale political solutions which have been proposed to salve ethnic conflict, there are few more effective ways to promote tolerance between suspicious neighbours than to force them to eat supper together.”
Perhaps the distance between people and not the differences of people is what create a hostile tribal mindset within the group. If we don't understand someone's viewpoint, perhaps the best thing to do is sit down and have lunch together.
Throwing a fact in someone's face does not help win minds and hearts over, getting to know the person and becoming their friend does.
be gentle with reality
One of our favorite writers, Haruki Murakami once wrote, “Always remember that to argue, and win, is to break down the reality of the person you are arguing against. It is painful to lose your reality, so be kind, even if you are right.”
When we get lost in trying to prove our point, we lose sight of our initial intention, which is to try to connect with the other side. What good is winning an argument when at the end you're left with a person who resents you because you just broke down their beliefs that they've been holding on to for years.
At the end of the day, we're all human creatures who are wired to want to feel like we belong. Let's be kind and thoughtful to one another so that we can make better connections that will lead to fun productive collaborations with people that we may have never have thought to work with.
An open mind and a kind heart leads to more opportunity and growth.
It's not about being right, it's about doing the right thing.