“All definitions of words, like everything else, are relative. Definition is to a major degree dependent upon your partisan position. Your leader is always flexible, he has pride in the dignity of his cause, he is unflinching, sincere, an ingenious tactician fighting the good fight. To the opposition he is unprincipled and will go whichever way the wind blows, his arrogance is masked by a fake humility, he is dogmatically stubborn, a hypocrite, unscrupulous and unethical, and he will do anything to win; he is leading the forces of evil. To one side he is a demigod, to the other a demagogue.
–Saul Alinsky, Rules For Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals
This is a most erudite statement about our human tendency to see the same traits and interpret the same words or thoughts differently, dependent on who is exhibiting said behavior or words.
An idea from someone we admire sounds more palatable than when an enemy or someone from a group we dislike or fear voices that same idea.
Too bad … this very human trait gets squarely in the way of our thinking critically and effectively about the message, because we focus our attention on our relationship to the messenger, and not on the value or merits of the message.
This is deadly at any time and doubly so now …. We need to step up our game at discerning valid and effective stances, and not allow our perception of the person who delivers the message to distract us.
A WORD OR TWO ABOUT TRUST:
All this, of course, assumes basic trust in the messenger. If we do not trust the messenger, we will not listen to them, but if we do, we might take all they say as true. Trust can be our powerful way to decide who we listen to and a powerful block to hearing what we need to hear.
Trust, by itself, is simply a feeling about someone or something else, and trust conveys no objective truth one way or the other. Sometimes though, it’s all we have to go on …
THE BOTTOM LINE:
I have no easy resolution to offer here. The tendency to rate things based on our relationship with the messenger is as old as humanity and does not break easily.
It’s called the “Halo and Horns” effect.
One thing I do know: Awareness is the beginning of positive change here, as it is in almost all change.
If we first honestly and deeply consider our perception of a person and how that perception might influence us to hear them more negatively or more positively, we are on the way to more effective critical thinking.
Being free to simply agree with our heroes and ignore or rail against our enemies is no longer as easy as it once was …
Trying to sift through all the hoopla, platitudes, and innuendos swirling around important issues in the Heartland …
REFERENCE: Halo and Horns Effect (Wikipedia)
INSPIRATION: Quote originally shared by Steve Layman, who toils prolifically at Anderson Layman’s Blog. Not only has Steve introduced me to a range of other worthy bloggers, his daily stream of fascinating and eclectic thoughts, images, and links brings continual mental exercise to my brain and joy to my heart.