By Gillian Pietrowski
“Argue as if you’re right, but listen as if you’re wrong (and be willing to change your mind). Make the most respectful interpretation of the other person’s perspective.”
– Adam Grant
A book I am reading, “The Coddling of the American Mind,” by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, focuses on the issues regarding college campuses and the effects of certain speech on them. It raises the question of whether words, which some think to be “dangerous,” can really harm students. This problem then evolves into the need for safe spaces and trigger warnings.
The First Amendment guarantees us the right to exercise the freedom of speech. But how does this play out when people are forced to keep their ideas, perspectives and thoughts to themselves in fear that they will offend someone? Has the First Amendment become an empty phrase in a world where we worry that our speech will harm someone?
The quote by Grant is a great start to being able to speak your mind to others while respecting them and vise versa. When you are having a discussion with someone who has different views than you, there is no reason to preach that you are right and he is wrong. What is that going to solve? Why not offer your reasoning for your ideas and allow the other person to do the same. Keep your mind open and take in what others have to say; you might learn from them. We should not, however, fear that what we are saying will endanger others.
I believe in the importance of keeping the lines of communication open. Being able to converse with one another from different perspectives allows us to better understand each other’s thoughts and their reasoning behind them. Creating safe spaces and trigger warnings on campuses might seem like a good idea to some. But if we allow students to be shielded, how will they learn to respect the diverse opinions of others – when such respect is just what they want for themselves?