The first step

Asking “What am I missing?” is the first step. It’s that doorstop against cognitive closure that comes too early, that hasn’t gotten close enough to know enough at all.

So then, who do you ask? What expert should you consult to understand other people’s perspectives? Well, let’s turn that around for a minute. What expert should I consult to understand yours?

Authors, researchers, and credentialed thinkers and doers of all kinds connect the dots for the rest of us on a lot of things that matter. They speak with confidence about what they know, but are they any less vulnerable to the blinding effects of sorting, othering, and siloing? Do they ask “What am I missing” often enough? When it comes to the patterns of people particularly in anxious, whirlwind times like these, there’s just no substitute for primary sources. I’m not saying we ignore all the thoughtful frameworks and narratives that teach us something about how people work. As long as they open our minds, they help! I am saying: Let’s not turn to the experts, then turn away from each other. Let’s do our own exploring, too. Let’s put our perspective next to someone else’s with no middleman, meaningfully and frequently enough that what we observe becomes a check on what everyone’s going on about. 

Only some people have the time and resources to research, theorize, communicate, promote. So someone is better at writing; are they better at living? Let’s kill that idea once and for all. You, me, each of us has expertise as unique as our paths through the world – a ken built over a lifetime as undeniable as any other. 

The story of the world feels like it’s the experts’ to tell. It’s not. It’s all of ours.

The trick, then, is to scoop it up and add it up. To leave our harbor and learn from each other about each other for each other’s own sake.

From “I Never Thought of It That Way: How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times” by Mónica Guzmán