Although many would disagree, it’s easy for us to imagine the dinner table during the holidays as a minefield – where off-the-cuff comments can provoke enthusiastic arguments. In a recent episode of the NPR podcast, The Hidden Brain, Shankar Vedantam used the holidays to talk about why these disagreements are rarely discussed away.
“When we feel an aunt or an uncle or grandparent is out to get us, we do everything we can to defend ourselves against this hate that’s coming across the table,” Vedantam noted. “What we don’t often realize is the person sitting across the table is trying to defend themselves from what they think is our hate for them.”
Far from isolated to the family dinner table, however, his point clearly resonates with the rancor that defines much of public discussion these days. Vedantam cites recent social science research that looks at the psychological reasons that make these divides seem so intractable.
But this research suggests that the most important first step is imagining that those who disagree with do so not simply out of hate. If this is the first step in finding political common ground, then it seems like an easy one to take.