Compound interest

If you don’t like what someone says, or their opinions, or the positions they take, you can always protest. You can call them names, you can lay bare all the flaws in their reasoning. You can even try to express your displeasure to those around them, try to punish them by harming their life.

All are valid options. But will they prove useful? Even if you succeed in implementing one or more of the strategies outlined above, are you going to get that person to change their mind? Probably not. Bad ideas rarely die. When confronted with violence, they hide beneath the earth, and bide their time, growing fat from hatred and frustration, looking for an opportunity to resurface.

The alternative, of course, is one that demands time, patience and a lot of work. But it works. You may take the time and make the effort to set aside your revulsion for the person in question, and listen to them. Hear them expose their revolting, wrong, and painful ideas. And maybe hear some more besides. And then you can humbly add:

“Yes, I understand why you think so. And what if…”

And that “And what if …” Should constitute the smallest possible wrinkle in their ideas, a mere note of discord. And contain your emotional response once even this small objection is immediately denied. It only means that you haven’t listened enough.

People’s ideas can change, yes. But that change is like sea water changing the rocks it bathes.

The advantage of cultivating such patience, and of bearing with such labor? When that person starts to listen to what you say – once you are no longer a stranger – they will change for real, not just hide beneath the earth.

And then, there will be another person in the world ready to listen to others, and to ask “And what if..?” from someone else.

Painting: “Argument over a Card Game” by Jan Steen