Saturday, February 23, 2013

How Why This Way Has Helped Me See Clearly

Since I've been involved in Why This Way, I feel like I've been better able to evaluate the amount of truth in the messages around me, and have a better idea of how I want to respond. I think part of this is due to its emphasis on identifying logical fallacies. I took a class on logical fallacies when I was in college, and I thought it was really easy and obvious. But it was mostly hypothetical. Why This Way involves actively rooting out those fallacies from my own speech patterns and those of people around me, with the enforcement of the rules of communication in meetings. How has this helped me in real life?

There are a lot of common speech patterns that are sort of ingrained in society, in which people say things that aren't entirely true, such as exaggerations and over-generalizations. And it's so normal to do it - I've always been aware that it's common, and I expect people to exaggerate and over-generalize, but I didn't realize until recently how much skewed thinking and reasoning can result from it. It generates racism, and other forms of discrimination. It perpetuates ideas about people, where if people don't fit with them, they might feel like something is wrong with them. I think there's nothing wrong with a little figure-of-speech exaggeration like "it's hot as blazes outside" but I think the problem comes when people take or present over-generalizations as truth. Then an idea can enter the consciousness of society such as "Men only want sex, and everything they do for women is so that they can get some."

Being involved in Why This Way has helped me identify potentially harmful over-generalizations, and I respond to them by saying things like "I don't think that's always true," and/or presenting a counterexample if I have one. I've found that usually people will agree, if they think about it, that their generalization isn't entirely true.

Another thing that I often hear is people ascribing motives to other people. I believe that no human being knows better than you what your motives are. In the past, if I had people tell me what they thought my motives were, I might have believed them, and internalized it. But now if someone tries to tell me something like, "you might be resisting this activity out of a subconscious fear of thus and such," I can be like, "I don't think I am. I think I have other reasons why I don't want to do it." And I think I've also become more aware of my motivations, on some level.

All in all, I think I've developed a clearer ability to filter the ideas around me in terms of their levels of truthfulness, subjectivity, healthiness, and whether they're ideas that I want to associate with. I think I have a better ability to protect myself against manipulation and having ideas pushed on me that I don't want.