For those who want to understand the Other Side better, here’s a few do’s and don’ts:

  • Don’t paint the Other Side with a broad brush; realize there is a range of opinions within all groups.
  • Don’t attribute the opinions of the most extreme of the Other Side to the whole group.
  • Don’t psychologize or otherwise reduce opinions you don’t share to the personal qualities or motives of those who hold them.
  • Don’t mindread – that is, ignore the Other Side’s expressed thoughts and motivations in favor of what you consider their “real” thoughts and motivations.
  • Don’t indulge in caricature or cartoonish portrayals of the Other Side.
  • Do try to engage the Other Side’s arguments on their merits.
  • Do try to see that many disagreements turn out to be a matter of degree and not absolutes.
  • Do try to find the common ground – and then try to expand it.
  • Do try to understand the relation between what seems to be irrational statements and the broader reality they speak to. When in doubt, ask – start a dialogue.
  • Be humble.
  • Listen.

Follow these basic principles. Loosen those chains of certainty!  Disagreements about fact or emphasis won’t completely disappear but the extent of disagreement will shrink, making compromise and constructive problem-solving much more likely.