By Jordan Davidson |

As America grows increasingly polarized, it can be difficult to approach someone who lands on the opposite side of the aisle than you when it comes to beliefs. Tough conversations, however difficult they may be, are necessary. Here are three reasons why you should have conversations with people who believe differently than you

Conversations cause you to examine your own beliefs.

Talking with someone who has different values than you allows you the opportunity to inspect your own beliefs. I have some pretty strong religious, political, and social beliefs. When people challenge me or ask hard questions, it makes me think about what I believe rather than just me taking it at face value.

Having conversations can provoke questions about one of your ideological stances that you may have never considered before. If we choose to believe things without testing them through conversations with other people, we may be susceptible to error or overlooking an important part of our belief system. Choosing to allow the cross-examination of your ideas shows your commitment to not only your personal convictions, but it also shows your willingness to learn new things. 

 “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.” -John Stuart Mill

Conversations give you the opportunity to learn something new.

I grew up in a pretty homogeneous area which means that I did not really get the chance to interact with people who looked, thought, or acted much different than me. When I came to Baylor, I was able to meet and make connections with new people that challenged some of my viewpoints and ideas. Because I engaged in conversations with these peers in my classrooms, residence hall, and student organization meetings, I gained knowledge outside of my own perspective and experiences.

The first time I had a conversation with one of my friends who has very different political beliefs than me, she enlightened me on specific circumstances and situations that had an effect on some of her values. I learned a lot about who she was, where she came from, and why she thought and acted a certain way that I may not have been exposed to before.

“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” -Abigail Adams

Conversations help you to understand, sympathize and love people.

Sometimes, gaining a better understanding of why someone believes what they believe allows you to sympathize with them.

 One time, when I was out to dinner with one of my close friends, I asked her about her religious dietary restrictions. This opened the door on a whole new conversation about our personal convictions as a Muslim and a Christian. We were able to have an authentic and uplifting conversation about why we each choose to avoid or partake in certain foods, drinks, and behaviors because of our religions. Because of our conversation, I understand better the reason behind why she can or can’t eat certain things. I also have the ability to be more sensitive to which restaurants carry food that she is allowed to eat.

“It is quite clear that between love and understanding there is a very close link…He who loves understands, and he who understands loves. One who feels understood feels loved, and one who feels loved feels sure of being understood.”Paul Tournier 

Conversations are relationship builders. They give you the opportunity to talk, but more importantly, they give you the opportunity to listen.

Take some time this week to reach out to someone who is different than you. When you open up the space to have hard conversations, you may be surprised by how much your own beliefs are impacted, how much you can learn, and how much you can sympathize and love that other person. Ignoring the variety in ideologies in our society isn’t going to get us anywhere, so let’s talk about it.

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” -Socrates