Don’t See The ‘Other Side’ as Evil #53

Warwick Fairfax

January 26, 2021

It’s no secret we live in a divided world, especially in the U.S. But disagreeing over issues and how best to solve the crucibles we face in our world and communities does not mean those who think differently than us are the enemy or evil. BEYOND THE CRUCIBLE host and Crucible Leadership founder Warwick Fairfax explains the danger in demonizing “the other side” from the comfort of our own echo chambers, and the breakthroughs that can occur if we refuse to judge and commit to listen to and understand the views of those with whom we disagree. Seeking unity, he explains, creates opportunities and growth in our pursuit of lives of significance.

To learn more about Crucible Leadership, visit www.crucibleleadership.com

Highlights

  • The problem of divisiveness in the U.S. (2:31)
  • Evil is real, but most people aren’t evil (6:20)
  • The cultural accelerants that feed the fire of division (9:38)
  • How crucibles can be an accelerant to thinking of others as evil (12:07)
  • Try to understand the “other side” (16:50)
  • Why echo chambers are dangerous places in which to live (18:02)
  • The example of Winston Churchill (19:42)
  • The importance of listening (22:24)
  • The character qualities that improve listening (25:22)
  • Why we need to lay our ideology down long enough to learn the other person’s humanity (26:52)
  • How listening may have helped Warwick avoid his most devastating crucible (27:24)
  • Not impugning the other person’s motives and seeking first to understand (30:23)
  • Why engaging others with questions is a wise practice (32:21)
  • The benefits of healing personal and community divisions (36:28)
  • The value of honorable compromise in building unity (38:51)
  • The example of presidents George H.W. Bush and Clinton (40:29)
  • Gary’s story of building a friendship across ideological lines (45:27)
  • Warwick’s concluding thoughts (49:58)

Transcript

Warwick F:
Welcome to Beyond the Crucible. I’m Warwick Fairfax, the founder of Crucible Leadership. Don’t assume you know other people’s motives and what’s in their heart. It’s one thing to say, “I disagree with a policy.” Like, you might say, “I think that elementary schools in my state should be opened sooner than the government or other people saying they’re open.” They can meet legitimate policy disagreement, legitimate healthcare disagreement. But don’t assume the other side’s evil or wrong, that’s just dangerous when we get into these sorts of policy disagreements.

Gary S:
Evil is far too big a word, far too big a word to be used with such little discretion. It’s a very big word and it does, as you pointed out, it applies to certain things for sure, but most of the time when we have disagreements with someone over the kinds of issues that you’ve talked about, and we’ll continue to talk about here, it’s not evil that we’re talking about it’s disagreement. We’ve become, in some cases, so either entrenched or so kind of stickumed to our viewpoints that when someone comes along with a different viewpoint, it’s easy to characterize them, it’s too easy sometimes to characterize them as evil and that has real world ramifications.

Gary S:
Indeed, it does. Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, the co host of the show, the communications director for Crucible Leadership, and the owner of the voice that just ended that snippet you just heard. That clip comes from a conversation Warwick and I have on this week’s episode about the dangers of divisiveness, when it extends beyond disagreements over ideology and veers into losing sight of another person’s humanity. Warwick shares several tips about what we can all do to prevent that from happening, from making an intentional effort to push past the comfort zones of our media and relational echo chambers, to seeking first to understand not change the mind of someone with whom we disagree. The benefits of taking these tips to heart and putting them into practice can help you avoid crucibles, get through crucibles that have already occurred, and maybe just maybe find unlikely companions to join you as you pursue your life of significance.

Warwick F:
We live in a divided world where it seems like we can group ourselves into camps and there’s a tendency to view the other camp, whatever that might be as the enemy, not just that we disagree with them. But they’re the enemy, they’re bad people, they’re misguided and it creates a sense of hostility. I mean, certainly in the US this last year couldn’t have been more divided, politically, there was divisions of race that dates back hundreds of years, systemic racial issues. It’s really was the capstone in a sense was the assault on the Capitol building, I feel like it’s days ago, it doesn’t feel like it was that long ago.

Warwick F:
We live in Annapolis, Maryland, which is about 30 miles from the Capitol building, it’s not that far away, which was obviously a tragedy lives were lost and that’s taken division to a level that it should never get to. So there are those issues and even with things like health care, with COVID, everybody’s concerned, everybody wants to get the vaccine but there are divisions. There are some people who are very careful and don’t leave their homes and taking it very seriously. I have to say we probably are more on the careful end of the spectrum, and some of those people say, “Just listen to Dr. Fauci. It’s about the science.” Others say, “Look, you guys are being too cautious, we got to live our life.”

Warwick F:
Some people would go out and party which obviously some of us think is not the smartest thing in the world. But then you have divisions over more complex issues like the opening of schools. If you have elementary school kids, it’s been tough just to keep them locked down over the last year. So then you lose a year of education. So some people think kids aren’t as likely to get the COVID-19. So what do you do about school closings? What about restaurant and businesses that may go under because of strict lockdown?

Warwick F:
So even there, it’s easy to say just follow the science and it’s hard to disagree with that. But there are disagreements over science to a degree, there are disagreements over how that’s applied. So even with something like COVID-19 where you think, well, why would people disagree over that? It’s like, be sensible, be safe, wait for the vaccine. Well, it’s not that simple. From school closing to businesses to restaurants, that’s just one small example but it’s, I feel like in some sense you could say that certainly in this country and maybe beyond, people are as divided as they’ve been in decades, maybe since the Vietnam War, I don’t know but there is massive division.

Gary S:
With that division, I mean, it’s nothing new, right? Division over anything is nothing new and you know this if you have a family, or if you have a community, or if you have a business, I mean, we know that there’s division that occurs. But one of the things that you really wanted to address is this idea that you can disagree, I mean, I’ve heard it expressed as you can disagree without being disagreeable, but it’s the level of animosity that is ginned up by these disagreements. The working title for the blog that you’ve written on this subject is, Don’t Assume the Other Side is Evil. I think that’s where it’s yes, there’s tension, yes, there’s disunity but it goes to the point that the other person is not just wrong in our minds, sometimes the other person is evil and that really degrades relationship and community.

Warwick F:
That’s very true, and I want to just be clear here, I’m not saying that evil doesn’t exist in the world, I prefer not to try to call people evil because that means examining somebody’s soul and claiming what’s in their heart. I think from my faith based perspective, only God knows what’s in our hearts. But I think we can objectively look at actions and say those actions are evil acts. So whether it’s somebody like Stalin or Adolf Hitler in World War Two and three million Jews being killed, those are clearly evil acts. So it is possible to say that certain acts are reprehensible. Assaulting the Capitol, people dying, yes, can be correct to say that’s reprehensible.

Warwick F:
So while there is evil in the world, there are evil acts, I think it’s dangerous to accuse people who disagree with you as being “evil.” So labels get hurled around in our dialogue, people are called Nazis, fascists, socialists. I mean, those are dangerous terms. I mean, Nazis probably maybe one of those dangerous terms you can use that should not be used lightly and can be seen to minimize what happened in World War Two. So I mean, there is evil, but don’t always assume the other side’s evil be wary of using motives. We will get to this more in terms of some thoughts and pointers, but just don’t assume you know other people’s motives and what’s in their heart.

Warwick F:
It’s one thing to say I disagree with a policy. Like you might say, “I think that elementary schools in my state should be open sooner than the government or other people saying they’re open.” They can be legitimate policy disagreement, legitimate health care disagreement. But don’t assume the other side’s evil or wrong. That’s just dangerous when we get into these sorts of policy disagreements.

Gary S:
Evil is far too big a word far too big a word to be used with such little discretion. It’s a very big word, and it does, as you pointed out, it applies to certain things for sure, but most of the time when we have disagreements with someone over the kinds of issues that you’ve talked about, and we’ll continue to talk about here, it’s not evil that we’re talking about it’s disagreement. We’ve become, in some cases, so either entrenched or so kind of stickomed to our viewpoints that when someone comes along with a different viewpoint, it’s easy to characterize them, it’s too easy sometimes to characterize them as evil, and that has real world ramifications.

Gary S:
One of the things that you tried to unpack, and you do an excellent job of unpacking in the blog, which will be out if not by the time this airs, will be out soon thereafter and you can find that blog at crucibleleadership.com. One of the things you tried to do is not only explain how this comes about, what the challenges before us, but how to sort of how to meet that challenge and rise above that denigrating language, that disparaging language, that dangerous if you will, language of thinking of disagreements with yourself as evil.

Warwick F:
Absolutely true. I think one of the images that came in my mind of that you can have a forest like in California or in Australia, kind of earlier in the year. It’s funny, pre COVID there were bushfires down the east coast of Australia that were as bad as they’ve ever been, and that seemed to be the cataclysm of 2020. Well, who knew that a short while later that it wasn’t the cataclysm, we were entering COVID. But there’s a number of accelerants, if you will, that are causing these fires to be worse. Certainly in our political system, there are political action committees on the left and right and they have a vested interest in saying the other side is evil. Saying if the other side wins control of Senate, Presidency, Congress, whatever the issue is, the world’s going to end. They raise money, because you don’t raise money by saying, “Well, I think the other side has good points.” So our proposition is to find some harmony in the middle. Well, that just doesn’t do it for people, people often motivated out of anger and rage.

Gary S:
And fear.

Warwick F:
And fear. Absolutely. I mean, what do the political consultants say? The best ads are ones that are negative ads and appeal to people’s fear, because studies show it works.

Gary S:
Right.

Warwick F:
Therefore, positive ads may be uplifting, but don’t tend to work as much. Very sad to say, and then the other accelerant, if you will, is social media. Now, in the Vietnam War era, and gosh, I think probably it was only more in the early 2000s that social media began to take off from Facebook, Twitter, all these different mediums and social media. There are things you say on social media that you would never say to somebody to their face, or about somebody you don’t know. So the combination of money in politics, fueling division, profiting over division and social media, it makes the underlying tendency for people to stay in their people groups and only associate with people they know. It’s an accelerant, it makes it so much worse, those factors of money and politics and social media.

Gary S:
As we begin to segue into talking about actions we can take, things we can do to drop the rhetoric down and to avoid even the thought, the impulse of thinking that someone’s evil because they disagree with us. It’s important to sort of frame this up in the context of crucible leadership, in the context of crucibles. One of the things that can be an accelerant that is just circumstantial is a crucible moment, what we’re talking about, about the pandemic and the views of the pandemic that people have.

Gary S:
That’s a crucible, I’ve heard it described as a collective crucible that we go through, when we’re going through hard times, when we’re going through setbacks and failures and those kinds of things we are raw, and we can on social media, in relationships, lash out and think, not just the worst of someone who disagrees with us but we can think, the really absolute worst, they’re evil, there’s something innately not good about who they are. It’s not just a difference of opinion, it’s almost a difference in humanity, we dismiss them as not having humanity or not having the right to have their humanity acknowledged. I think in crucible moments, those situations become even more potentially incendiary.

Warwick F:
Yeah, I think that’s so true. I mean, if you’ve been fired by a boss or your company, sometimes you’ll think, well, maybe I had a role in that, often, you’ll be thinking, well, my boss is terrible, and awful. There’s a tendency to think when bad things happen to you that you’re sort of pure as driven snow, if you will, and the other side’s evil. Because accepting responsibility or that there could be issues that both of you have, I mean, that is human nature and probably the other side of it. Beyond that is, we all tend to be in different people groups. It could be where you grew up, it could be ethnic, it could be country, it could be cultural, urban versus rural.

Warwick F:
It’s easy to take on the views and philosophy of what other people group you are from, which is understandable. But then what’s not so good is assuming that people who are different than you whether it’s political viewpoint race or what have you is somehow wrong or somehow bad, there is this natural tendency, human tendency to congregate in people groups, and listen to those people groups and assuming the other people groups is somehow wrong or even worse than wrong.

Gary S:
Right. Self interest is not always in the public interest, if it’s taken to an extreme self interest. We are a pluralistic society, we are people with lots of different opinions and that is as good of a place to sort of segue, Warwick into the points that you’ve developed on just how to build unity in the midst of these diverse viewpoints and diverse people groups that we all live among, and that we haven’t as a collective been doing a very good job of in the last six months, 10 months, 12 months. We’ve got some work to do in this area for sure.

Warwick F:
Absolutely, and really the first point is what we’ve been talking about is, don’t assume the other side is wrong. When I say the other side, what does that mean? Well think of your own life. What people group do you think that you’re in? It could be racial, ethnic, it could be, “Well, I think of myself as an engineer and I’m not one of these creative folks who continually want to re-engineer everything and make my life miserable at work.” I mean, whatever people group is relevant to you and really, the question is in my mind, in which group that you’re in? Often you could be in a nationality group, an ethnic group, a profession group, a sporting group.

Warwick F:
There’s all sorts of groups, multiple groups that we self identify with. Which one of those do you have the most angst in? Some groups, it’s not really a big deal. Some people get really hot and bothered about sports, others like sports but the world’s not going to end if their team loses.

Gary S:
Well, I don’t know, I feel sometimes like my world’s going to end if my Cubs or Packers lose, but that’s a different podcast.

Warwick F:
Well, I’m with you. As Australian, I’m a huge cricket fan. Australians care about cricket the way Canadians care about hockey. So it’s easy to get too emotionally involved in sports, which would be another podcast.

Gary S:
Indeed.

Warwick F:
So I’m with you. But whatever that is, whatever the other side means for you, which depends on which people group you feel that you’re in that you have the most angst about, don’t assume that they’re wrong or evil or wrong headed. So that really is the launching point of really the first key point is, try to understand the other side. First step is don’t assume they’re wrong and evil. Okay, so having made that leap of faith, innocent until proven guilty, then kind of the next step is well, try to understand them. Where this is hard is that we live in a not only divided society, but a divided media society.

Warwick F:
So people increasingly tend to watch their news channel or read their online news of choice that agrees with their opinion. It could be political, it could be social, and that just increases your internal rage. The other side is awful, well, I read it online. I watch my news channel. They agree with me. Well, how about watching another news channel even if you disagree with it, or read another online source, another media outlet and just get perspectives from the other side. Even if you don’t agree with it. It’s like, “Well, I disagree with 70% of it, but 30% of what they said they actually have a point which I hadn’t considered.” So that’s one thing is trying to understand the other side and one initial way is just by viewing media and getting input from different sources, different books. I mean, we have a lot of information in our fingertips, utilize that opportunity.

Gary S:
Absolutely. Echo chambers are dangerous places to live. They’re not just to hear reinforcements of what you believe all the time, it doesn’t challenge you and it goes against the grain of what we talk about at crucible leadership all the time. What do we say in crucible leadership? You’ve been through a crucible, the key to moving beyond your crucible’s to learn the lessons of your crucible. Slow down stop, what was my fault? What is trying to be taught me in this experience? How can I learn from this experience?

Gary S:
Similar thing can play out when you hear things that you don’t agree with, if you’re only consuming that which you agree with, you’re not being challenged to overcome your feelings about the other side, I wrote Warwick an op-ed a little over a year ago for a publication, and this is one of the things I said. I just want to read this because it goes in great line with what you’ve just said in the last couple of points. I wrote this. It’s only in seeing the “other guy” as just as deserving as we are of respect and an opinion and the right to advocate for his or her position that we can ever hope to find our way to civility in public discourse. The immediate and ongoing demonization of those who think differently than we do, whose values don’t align with our own may make for boffo ratings but it does nothing to help us persuade others to the course of action we believe to be right. Worse, it degrades the greatest and freest country in the world.

Warwick F:
I mean, that’s so true. It’s funny, I was just thinking about this this morning. I can think of a figure from history, Winston Churchill, that nobody could accuse him of not having strong opinions. He had very strong opinions.

Gary S:
Yes.

Warwick F:
And was one of the most eloquent advocates of his opinions in the English speaking world. His speeches are as good as any. I mean, Lincoln was up there, but you think of Lincoln, Churchill, their ability to express themselves in a way that was compelling was almost unprecedented. But yet, he obviously in the 1930s is railing against pacifism and saying, “We need to wake up to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany and we need to rearm.” Everybody thought he was silly old Winston and warmonger and just ignoring him. But yet, he never took disagreements personally.

Warwick F:
So later when he was prime minister, there was I can think of three different people that he was very magnanimous, with. Stanley Baldwin, a former prime minister in the ’30s of Britain, Neville Chamberlain, who famously said, “I’ve met Mr. Hitler and we will have peace in our time.” Which, one of the colossally terrible statements.

Gary S:
He’s waving his piece of paper, I can still see him in the newsreels, right? Waving his peace of paper.

Warwick F:
Exactly needed a good PR guy or somebody to say, “Don’t say that. Are you really sur?” But you know, he would try to help them where he could, meet with them. He didn’t hold it personally and later in the supreme ignominy if you will, when he lost the 45 election against Clement Attlee from the Labour Party who was advocating national health care, prosperity, people are tired of war, and I get why people would have voted for him. People said, “Oh, Attlee, what a terrible person he is to Churchill.” He said, “Look, I may disagree with his policies, but he’s our prime minister, how you dare you speak to him that way.”

Warwick F:
So here was a classic case of a man with unbelievably strong opinions but he didn’t hold it personally, he didn’t talk about his adversaries at least politically as evil and was magnanimous and charitable to them personally, that’s really rare. So that’s really, I think, a model of don’t impugn other people’s motives.

Gary S:
Right, and the idea, so the first two points that we’ve kind of talked about here about how do you not treat those who disagree with you as evil, the first is kind of widening, right? It’s opening up the spectrum of our inputs. Don’t assume they’re evil and then, as you take in information, don’t live in an echo chamber, we’re all on social media or in news media, you’re only consuming those people who affirm your beliefs, have people who will challenge those beliefs. The third point that you talk about, Warwick is so important in interpersonal relationships in particular, and that is the need to listen, which is a critical part, I note of, in fact, it’s a chapter in your book, Crucible Leadership coming out in the fall from Morgan James Publishing.

Warwick F:
Indeed.

Gary S:
There’s a chapter on listening, it’s a key part of overcoming a crucible and it’s a key part of overcoming this impulse that we have sometimes to think of people who disagree with us as evil.

Warwick F:
It’s very true. I mean, it obviously it starts with not impugning other people’s motives, it helps if you can read stuff online or on TV, view things on TV from people with different perspectives than you. But I think it’s inevitable in our day and age, we’re going to come across actually real live humans that disagree with us, because we live in a diverse world of diverse opinion, diverse people groups. So that’s where I think it’s very helpful to actually listen, to really listen to people, try to understand their life experience, their heritage, their background.

Warwick F:
We all have different viewpoints for a reason. I can think of the whole, I think I briefly mentioned it earlier. The whole urban, rural kind of background. If you grow up in the US in a more rural area, you might be a proponent of you have friends and neighbors that will help you but ultimately, you’re responsible for your own life, your own job, your own livelihood, the so called kind of rugged individualism because it’s all about everybody pulling themselves up from the bootstraps, we don’t need government. The whole philosophy goes with that.

Warwick F:
Or there can be more of an urban city viewpoint in which there’s often been systemic racial issues and challenges. I mean, obviously that exists in all areas. But there can be a viewpoint where government’s not necessarily bad or evil, and there there to try to promote equality, and inclusion and fairness and people who are impoverished need to be helped. So those are fundamentally different viewpoints. But objectively, maybe there’s some elements of truth in both. So rather than just say, “Oh, people who have this other viewpoint than me are wrong and evil.” How about listening to them? If you’re from more of a rural area and you meet somebody more from an urban area, so we vote politically very differently help me understand your perspective. Why do you vote the way you do? Why do you have a perspective on the role of government? Which may be fundamentally different than me, help me understand. And that’s just almost never happens.

Warwick F:
If you approach a dialogue with respect and humility, it’s funny, some of the other things I’ve been thinking about is there are some underlying characteristics in the sense of character qualities that are important. If you approach this dialogue with somebody who looks different, thinks different, acts different, believes different from a standpoint of humility, a standpoint of empathy, vulnerability. Help me understand if you say, well, help me understand because I know you’re an idiot, it’s not going to be very effective. If you say, help me understand and they really believe you do and keep trying they might say, “You’re so different than me, there’s no way you want to understand my perspective or my history.” Which there might be issues that go back hundreds of years or more.

Warwick F:
If you approach it with humility and empathy real dialogue can happen but it requires a certain soul care, soul examination to be able to approach things with humility rather than with anger and self vindication or vindictiveness. So there’s heart work that has to go first.

Gary S:
Because the end goal of that conversation needs to be, what can I understand? Not how can I hammer the other person with my beliefs. It’s, we’ve lost I think in some great sense what argument is truly all about and that is to try to persuade another person. When we’re talking to someone, a true argument like a rhetorical argument, like a forensics debate is you’re trying to convince people, and we’ve lost that sense, I think, where we want to make clear what we believe but not listen to what someone else believes. I think one of the key things to do in these conversations, and you summed it up well, we need to lay our ideology down long enough to get to know the other person’s humanity. Because from that, we can learn some things and learning some things is again, from a crucible leadership perspective, learning, listening are not just good things, they’re essential things to move beyond those moments that can be the most trying of our lives.

Warwick F:
I mean, I can think of an example in my own life that I talk about in the book, as you mentioned coming out this fall, where listening, that whole chapter really was birthed in that life experience in which as listeners know, I grew up in this very large hundred and fifty year old family media business with papers the equivalent of the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, TV, radio stations, I was the fifth generation. Turmoil and division in my family going back generations. So in 1976, when I was 15, some of the other family members threw my dad out as chairman of the company.

Warwick F:
Well, I felt that was wrong, unconscionable, It was very clear to me who was right, who was wrong. My dad was I loved very much, was a righteous person who was persecuted unfairly. So that was my position and not consciously but subconsciously what led up to the $2.25 billion takeover 11 years later in ’87 wasn’t conscious, was look what these people did to my father, we need to bring back the company in the ideals of the founder and management’s not good. I had this whole perspective and I never really dialogued with other members of my family, obviously at 15 that’s a bit, a lot to expect.

Warwick F:
When I was 26, coming back from Harvard Business School, I mean, still young but I was so convinced by my parents’ perspective and their version of history, that I knew who was the good guys and the bad guys, who was right, who was wrong and there was never any dialogue with other family members to say, “Look, this is what I’ve heard my perspective, I’d love to hear what your perspective of why you removed my dad as chairman and what your views of the company and the future.” I never did that. Now I’m thinking, I still don’t think it was right that they threw my dad out as chairman, maybe there was another way of doing it. But I never really took the time to understand the other perspective. So yeah, I mean, I’ve thought a lot about that, of not making assumptions about somebody else’s viewpoint.

Gary S:
Yeah, that leads to the next two points, I think, to discuss on steps we can take to create a more civil community in both our small C community and large C community that you talk about, and you hit on both of them with that example. One is don’t impugn other people’s motives, and you just acknowledge that you kind of did that with the people who dismissed your dad as chairman, and then seeking to understand maybe at 15 you’re not emotionally developed enough to try to understand why it was maybe the decision to have your dad removed as chairman, but those two things kind of go hand in hand. There’s impugning of other people’s motives, that’s a slippery slope that you can start sliding down that can lead you to say, “The person who did those things is evil.” Seeking first to understand if you don’t do that, you’re kind of hitting a brick wall and that’s easy to go, “That person’s evil.”

Warwick F:
Absolutely. Yeah, not impugning other people’s motives, seeking first to understand. Seeking first to understand is a very radical concept. I mean, it’s pretty revolutionary and it really comes from St. Francis of Assisi, who said, in his Prayer of St. Francis, “That we should seek more to understand then be understood.” Now, in some cases, you could say, “Look, that’s crazy. There’s been some cases systemic persecution for hundreds of years. Are you kidding me?” So, I would say, this is a general philosophy, and how you apply it individually one could debate.

Warwick F:
But the basic concept is, we tend to go into a discussion, if we ever get there, which we typically don’t, because we stay in our echo chamber and read our own media. So we don’t even get into a middle ground where we can have a dialogue, if we do where they’re haranguing other people for how they’re wrong and evil and we’re right, we’re yelling at each other. So if we get to human contact with others it’s often yelling and trying to prove we’re right.

Warwick F:
So let’s say you happen to get in some ground with other people who are different than you or think differently, just rather than to say, which is easy to say, “Look, the first thing we need to do is you need to understand me, I need to be understood, because unless I’m understood I refuse to listen to you.” You often hear that in our society, and in some cases maybe there’s fair reason for that. But as a general rule, the bigger man, the bigger woman, the person who has maybe more courage, if you will, more humility takes a very radical approach in saying, “Look, I’m pretty angry about a bunch of things but I am going to park that at the door and I’m going to start with, so look, I know we have different viewpoints, I’d love first to understand why you have that viewpoint? Where does it come from?” Talk about your background, is it parents, society, friends and neighbors, help me understand not just your perspective, but why you have that perspective and why that’s maybe part of your heart, identity. You don’t have to use all those words, but start with trying to understand the other person first. That is radical, and they might be kind of blown away.

Warwick F:
It’s like, excuse me, you don’t want yell at me, you don’t want to give me your three best points of why your argument is true. Who are my favorite commentators, really starting with that one. You’re starting with, help me understand, and you got to do it with humility. It can’t be some manipulative game because people will pick that up. That is almost unprecedented and unheard of, it’s radical and revolutionary to do what St. Francis advocates.

Gary S:
I don’t know if this will embarrass you or what it will do. But one of the things I’ve heard you say more than pretty much anything else is when you describe yourself that you interact with people with questions. You have said on more than one occasion, you’ve said Warwick that someone will say to you after a meeting, “Well, those are really insightful points that you made Warwick.” And then you’ll think what?

Warwick F:
I’ll say, I don’t know what you’re talking about I was just asking questions.

Gary S:
Right. I mean, the idea of asking questions that is rarer. I mean, go to social media, we don’t ask any questions on social media, social media is a one way street. I think this, I think this, I think this, I think this, I think this, I think this, and then if we deviate off to a side road, or an off ramp, it’s, and you’re wrong if you don’t think this. Whereas what you’re saying is think in questions, look to understand the other person, find out why they believe that way and I would argue, if you believe the other person, whoever that is, “the other side” the other person is evil that’s one of the reasons why we don’t want to find out what they think because we don’t think it’s worth understanding. Back off of thinking that they’re evil, that opens you up to wanting to understand what they have to say because they have the same humanity that you have.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. I mean, it helps to be curious. I like to think I’m a curious person that loves to learn, and I have strong opinions about a whole bunch of things. I typically prefer not to harangue people with my opinions, and maybe in my own home where we’re chatting about things over the dinner table. That’s different. But everybody does that. That’s fair game. Anybody can feel free to express their opinions. But I mean, I’m naturally curious and I think to develop as a human being, it helps to understand perspectives of people who are different than us and think differently, because it makes us richer, richer people, we learn more.

Warwick F:
So I think, and that’s a high value of me is, I think I’ve heard somebody talk about in one of the podcasts we had on talked about intentional curiosity. I love that phrase, because I think we do need to be intentionally curious the world would be a better place if we were more intentionally curious.

Gary S:
That is a great on ramp to the final part of our conversation, and that is, what are the benefits? Okay, we’ve talked about, here’s the situation we’re in, it is rife with division. We’ve talked about ways that we individually can help move beyond that division, we can take that crucible that we all find ourselves in with a division in our communities in our country, how we can apply some lessons, how we can apply some tactics, do some things to help tamp down the division. Now comes what’s the benefit of that? Why try to do that? What is the upshot? How does that make us a better place?

Warwick F:
I really think that unity creates opportunity, and you have to have immense courage in our day and age, want to go for unity. Certainly in the political world that we live in is a very good example of the cost of unity. The cost of compromise is massive and very rarely happens. In this country and in others certainly here. If you talk to somebody on the other side of the aisle politically, and try to form a compromise, you will be seen as a sell out by your party. You’ve got a very high probability of being primaried, and depending on how safe a seat is for your side, that primary probably has a really fair chance of winning. So you try and compromise your political career has a good chance of being threatened if not over and you will be assailed in the negative advertising by the purists on your side.

Warwick F:
So the cost of trying to be unity is quite likely to be your job, well, that’s that takes a lot of courage. Now sometimes maybe the better angels in your district might say, look I disagree with my congressman or woman, but you know what? I respect the fact that they stick to their principles. It can work, but I don’t pretend it’s an easy sell. So that’s sort of one example. But there’s so many things in life that if we try to just understand the other side, like I think of one example, I think in the northwest area of the US, Oregon, Washington State there’s a big logging industry and you often have groups, environmental groups that want to protect the climate, which is a noble cause and protect the beautiful forests that are there. Then you have companies and folks that work in the logging industry that say, “That’s great, but my livelihood depends on being able to cut trees down. So you’re putting me out of work, I don’t have food to put on my family’s table, to pay the rent.”

Warwick F:
Well, it’s also important to try to not put people out because people matter too. So the question is, can you come up with a middle ground in which you both protect people’s jobs, but somehow protect the environment too? Those sides are not necessarily evil or wrong, both sides have reasonable opinions. So it’s too easy to get into this us or them. That’s one good example where you just trying, so okay, the other side is not evil, respect their opinion. It’s not easy to square circles I realize that, but people of goodwill can sometimes find compromises that may not be perfect, each side will have to give. But really, without some degree of unity, you get in this endless shouting match, which typically, nothing gets done and nobody gets helped and that’s typically what happens in politics in many countries, is all these things that everybody knows needs to be fixed but because we’re too entrenched in our camps, stuff doesn’t get done, whether it’s healthcare, the economy, what have you.

Warwick F:
So, there can be growth, there can be opportunity if you try to seek honorable compromise. Honorable compromise doesn’t mean selling out, it means understanding the other side’s perspective and maybe one and one can equal three. It can be in politics, it could be in business. You can have people that say, “Well, this is the way we’ve always done it in this company.” The younger entrepreneurial folks are like, “No, but we want to make this great change.” Well, maybe you can preserve the identity, the ethos of the company, while still using new technology and maybe there’s a middle ground. I mean, this sense of division isn’t just politics, it’s in business, it’s in society, it’s in a neighborhood, it’s everywhere. Try to understand the other perspective.

Gary S:
One of the goals I say all the time when you have disagreements on even substantive issues and approaches to those issues, is there a patch of grass that we both can stand on where we’re able to work toward a common good solution? The example that comes to my mind when I think of that, is there a patch of grass that we can stand on is the first President Bush, George H. W. Bush, and President Clinton. Now, when President Clinton beat President Bush, there was no love lost, there was no love lost between them.

Gary S:
President Bush was not happy to be a one term president, but years later, when President Bush’s son George W. Bush was president, there was a situation that came up where he brought together his father and President Clinton and they worked on some missions together for the good of the country and in doing so they didn’t just accomplish things that were good for the country, they became friends to the point that people would suggest President Bush, the elder, would suggest that he might have been in many ways the father that President Clinton lacked growing up, and President Clinton never corrected him on that. That is an amazing example of finding a patch of grass to stand on, that first leads to good policy decisions, first leads to good things for the community and the country, and then leads to friendship.

Warwick F:
Yeah, Gary, that is an absolutely excellent example. It really, both men are respected, both former presidents are respected for that. I mean, just to help listeners remember in ’92 when the first president George H. W. Bush lost, that was sort of amazing because he, by most historians account handled the first Gulf War well, he united NATO and a bunch of countries against what Saddam Hussein did in invading Kuwait. Well, at one point, he had like 80%, 90% approval. I mean, it was off the charts, but then maybe some economic issues, his approval rating fell, and then he had a third party candidate and Ross Perot that siphoned off about 15%.

Warwick F:
So if it hadn’t been for Ross Perot, there’s a pretty good chance Bush would have won. So Bush could have felt maybe justifiably, this isn’t fair, I did a good job and I am one term president, which as we know, nobody wants to be one term president and here’s this Bill Clinton, Governor of Arkansas, I mean, okay, Rhodes scholar, Oxford smart guy, but he could have felt very miffed and could have taken it very personally. As you say, when George W. Bush, President H. W. Bush’s son called them to do some relief work, I think it was after the tsunami in Indonesia.

Gary S:
Right. Right.

Warwick F:
They became friends almost like, I think Bill Clinton would joke, yeah, I’m sort of a son by another mother or black sheep of the family.

Gary S:
Right.

Warwick F:
He joked he was invited to the Bush compound in Kennebunkport, Maine and they became friends, which is remarkable that that would happen given that President George H. W. Bush, he minded greatly losing, it wasn’t a small thing and this is the guy that beat him. It’s an incredible example of just don’t take it personally and they found ways to work together for things they both thought were important.

Gary S:
They could not have done that, let’s be clear in the context of what we’ve been discussing, they could not have done that. President Bush, H. W. Bush, Republican, President Clinton, Democrat, very different ideologies, they could not have done that if their ideologies led them to believe that the other was evil.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. I can think of another example of that nature in my own family. My dad was chairman of Fairfax Media, John Fairfax Limited as then was, I don’t know, maybe 40, 45 years, a long period of time and he was also intellectually curious. He would like to meet with people of different faith perspectives, different political perspectives. So a friend of his was a former prime minister, Bob Hawke, he was a member of the Labor Party. In fact, when they became friends, he was head of the trade unions and Bob Hawke was a brilliant man, Rhodes scholar at Oxford, but certainly in his trade union days was seen as pretty left wing.

Warwick F:
My dad would probably be conservative, I wouldn’t say rabidly so but more on that end of the spectrum. So their political viewpoints couldn’t be more different, but yet they became good friends. Yet, politically, there’s a lot they didn’t agree with but yet, obviously, they both respected each other’s intellect. So that to me was remarkable that they could become good friends despite the fact that had very different worldviews.

Gary S:
Yeah, and I have a similar story in my own professional career. I worked for a nonprofit that had an ideological footprint, which it is doesn’t matter and in sort of stepping on with that ideological footprint, I as a PR guy for that that organization got in lots of debates in media with someone who represented another group which had a different ideological viewpoint. You could find me and this individual in stories a lot, arguing with one another across the notebook of the reporter in question. It turns out that the individual for whom I worked was getting an award and an honor and there was going to be a ceremony and the guy with whom I would argue in the press was protesting the honor, and he announced he was protesting the honor.

Gary S:
Well, I was sick of arguing across the notebook with him. So I called him up and I said, “Hey, we’re going to be in the same city, do you want to have dinner?” And we had dinner, and we sat down. One of the things that we discovered is that despite our ideology being different, our backgrounds were quite the same. We were both in public relations, we had far more in common to the point that you make in the blog, we had far more in common than we didn’t. The only thing that we really didn’t have in common was our ideology, and that wasn’t the whole sum and substance of who we were.

Gary S:
So fast forward through that experience, we became friends. He lived in New York, when I would go to New York, I’d stopped by I’d say hi, we would have conversations to the point, Warwick that when I published my book, on sort of my manifesto on what makes good public relations, this individual endorsed it. He endorsed the book, and said very nice things about me. He’s a PR guy I’m a PR guy. He wrote, “I’ve had the misfortune of being in PR battles with Gary Schneeberger and let me tell you, it’s no fun because he’s the best there is.” That is the kind of thing that you get when you lay your ideology down and you look at the humanity of someone.

Warwick F:
I mean, can that can you think of an endorsement that’s better than that? I mean, that’s the other side saying, I don’t like doing battle with this guy, because he’s too good. Doesn’t feel fair. I mean, you couldn’t have written a better endorsement than that. Right?

Gary S:
Right, and neither one of us to this day have changed our views on the issues that we would have disagreements about in the press, and we had disagreements after we became friends in the press. The point was, he didn’t think I was evil, I didn’t think he was evil and one of the reasons why that was able to happen is we sat down across a dinner table from one another and just talked as two human beings. Finding the humanity is key.

Warwick F:
That’s remarkable. I think it’s worth listeners pondering the story that Gary shared. What would have happened if Gary in New York from time to time, if he’d never reached out to this guy and said, “Let’s have dinner.” What would Gary and this other guy have missed out? A lot. They never would have known that they had more in common than they thought that endorsement wouldn’t have happened, obviously, there’s no way he would have endorsed you without that dinner and without that dialogue, you would have been seen as the enemy. So think of what would have been lost to you and this other person without you taking the remarkable step of saying, “Let’s have dinner.” Right?

Gary S:
Even in that context, I remember coming back to work after I did that, had that first dinner, and one of my colleagues came up to me and asked me if I at dinner said, “Did you talk to him about the chilling effects of these policy proposals that he’s doing?” I still remember what I said, Warwick, I said, “I haven’t thought about it since then.” I still remember what I said to my colleague, I said, “No, I did not take the time to whack him with my worldview mallet while I was trying to understand his humanity.”

Gary S:
Sometimes, many times, there’s a time to argue passionately for what you believe and there’s also a time to lay that worldview mallet down and have a discussion, a dialogue that helps you get to the humanity of someone.

Warwick F:
I think those are words to live by. So listeners, little role reversal. Just listen to what Gary just said, don’t whack people with your worldview mallet while you’re trying to create a relationship with them and understand them. Think of those words, words to live by. So true.

Gary S:
Well, I don’t know what to do now because that’s normally what I say then we wrap up. That’s a good place to kind of put the plane down on the tarmac. If you summed up Warwick this discussion from top to bottom, what do you want listeners to kind of walk away with overall? As we’ve talked about, here’s the situation we face in the country, in our communities right now, here’s some steps we can take to lessen that, to not think of people as evil. Here are the benefits of not thinking of the other side as evil. What’s the summary that you want to leave people with?

Warwick F:
I think people who just stay in their people groups, their ideology group, read own media read, watch their own TV stations, social media, listen to their own people all the time, you’re missing out a lot. Your viewpoints could grow, evolve, more than that your understanding of people who are different than you, think different than you could grow immensely. Well, think about this country, if people tried, had the courage to fight the underlying interests that make money over division, think what would happen with our country, if you had people willing to listen, and work with other people?

Warwick F:
If enough people do it and people can see, boy, some good things are happening, then people will begin to not listen to the negative echo chambers that are out there. It just takes a few people standing together for principled compromise, principled, what’s that center ground which is good for the country? It’s not just about the country think about businesses. Very often we surround ourselves with people that look like us to believe that what we do, how about having diversity of background of race, and political viewpoint? Economic, social, every other viewpoint. Respect other people’s viewpoints you might disagree passionately, but diversity means diversity in every possible conception of that word. Very few people do that.

Warwick F:
People, certainly when it comes to ideology, they like mixing even in the workplace. Workplaces are not that diversified, certainly in many ways they’re not diversified enough racially, or background. But they’re certainly also not very diversified in some cases when it comes to political viewpoint. There’s tremendous opportunity for growth. I mean, growth often happens when you have diverse viewpoints, coming together, brainstorming and coming up with ideas and solutions that never could have happened if you’re just talking to people with your own viewpoint.

Gary S:
Now that’s good, because now the roles are back. You’ve just had the last word and I get to wrap. So that’s great. Thank you for that, and thank you listener for spending time with us on this episode of Beyond the Crucible. I’m going to add a little bit to what Warwick just said and I think Warwick will agree with me when I do this, to give you an extension of the homework that he gave you. Don’t whack the other guy with your worldview mallet and in fact, go out, find someone, maybe it’s on social media, find someone in your business, find someone with whom you have deep disagreements, and make it a point to reach out and have a conversation and to truly try to understand them. Ask more questions than you make statements and that can help deflate a crucible that you might be on the edge of creating or maybe you’ve already created in terms of relationship. Also it can help knock down, tamp down this divisiveness that we talked about at the top of the show.

Gary S:
So until the next time that we are together, please one, go to crucibleleadership.com to check out Warwick’s blog on this. Please hit subscribe to the podcast on the app on which you’re listening to it right now. We’d also love it if you’d go and you’d leave a rating. If you enjoy what you hear on Beyond the Crucible, leave a rating what you think about it. Heck, if you don’t enjoy it, you can leave a rating too. But we’d prefer if you did enjoy it, you left a rating but anybody can leave a rating, we’re not saying what kind of rating you have to leave. But if you find these dialogues to be interesting, go leave a rating at a podcast app and let us know how we’re doing. Because at the end of the day, that’s what we want to know. We want to know how we’re doing so that we can make this an experience that you enjoy.

Gary S:
Remember, until the next time we are together that your crucible experiences are difficult. They’re trying and they’re challenging. They do indeed change the trajectory of your life, but they’re not the end of your story. They are in every case, they can be the beginning of your story, and they can be the beginning of the best part of your story. Because where they lead when you learn the lessons of them is to a greater destination than you could have imagined before the crucible and that is to a life of significance.

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