In one scene in Zoya Akhtar’s Dil Dhadakne Do, the narrator bemoans the fact that ‘language’ invented by the humankind to communicate is ironically the root of most miscommunication.
This wasn’t the first time popular culture was pointing at how we as human beings struggled to consistently conduct a civilised conversation. Especially with the ones close to us. We say something, and then someone comes up with a different point of view and two seconds later IT IS WARRRR! It is absolutely no surprise that our prime-time debates in news channels are so incoherent and lack any substance whatsoever.
Our education has conditioned us to think there’s only one ‘right answer’ to everything, even life
These are the same men and women, most of whom have been conditioned by an education system which indicates there is only one right answer. Unfortunately, what a lot of these people don’t understand is life is more complicated than an arithmetic equation. And there are those who belligerently push their point of view, thinking they could convince the others as long as they persevered long enough. There’s a lack of objectivity and the unwilligness to listen to the other person which only muddles the conversation further.
We unfortunately tend to see a contrary opinion as a personal attack on us.
A big problem for all of us Indians, is how often we fail to differentiate between a person and his views. Even in our own cases, we tend to take it personally. If someone suggests an opinion contrary to ours, we tend to get defensive about our arguments without trying to understand what they are saying. We take it as a personal attack and that causes us to react in a not very sombre way. I, myself, am guilty of this too. Over time, I’ve come to the realisation that a heated discussion is no good, and if you really have to come to a conclusion there is a need to make points you think are pertinent and hear out the others before coming to the conclusion that they might be wrong.
We, as Indians, are a very judgmental bunch. So if someone doesn’t agree with us, they are automatically wrong.
The problem is also with how quickly we start judging the other person for holding a contrary opinion. If they don’t agree with me, they have to be stupid. No other reason. However, I’ve come to the realisation on more than one occasion that it is only unwise to not listen to the other person who might be correcting our mistakes. He/she is doing you a service, and doesn’t deserve any disrespect. And even if they are expressing their skepticism and if you’re sure about your argument then you shouldn’t have to raise your voice. In the end, they will not end up listening to you unless they want to, and a shouting match will definitely not help.
We tend to prefer someone who ‘would be a man’ and stick to his stand than someone pragmatic.
We, as Indians, also use our judgement to good effect by labeling a pragmatic person who changes his/her views depending on ‘new facts’ as a hypocrite. Sorry, that’s not how you label people. A person who changes his stance after newer facts tend to indicate his stance was faulty, is only brave and we need to accept it. Judgement helps no one. And that’s clearly visible in our country’s social media where a contrary opinion, or certain skepticism is met with name-calling including ‘Bhakt’, ‘AAPtard’ and ‘Presstitues’.
Rote learning in our education system hardly provides us with the ability to make sound arguments.
The problem lies in our schools which paint a very binary picture of life. So things are either right or they are wrong. Rote learning hardly gives us the ammunition to make a lucid argument. To involve others in a debate is not always a futile exercise. You might continue to believe what you want to believe, but a different opinion can sometimes be enlightening and give us a more real measure of an incident. We need to learn the lesson about how all of us should be wise enough to know we are foolish. We need to give the benefit of the doubt to others, always considering we could be wrong.
We need to learn to remain calm. It’s only another opinion. The world can accommodate both, and you’ll both be alive even without seeing eye to eye with another person on everything.
In the words of the veteran Larry King, “I never learned anything while I was talking.”