This is my column this week in the New Zealand Herald, which is published in the digital edition every Thursday…
When I first went flatting I was shocked to learn that there was more than one way to fold a towel.
I was certain that my way, the way my family had taught me, to tidily stack and put away a towel was the only way.
Fold in half length ways, then in half in the middle, and then into thirds: the perfect size for stacking.
Human nature is such that we all have a tendency to consider our way of doing things as the right way. Others and difference are wrong by default.
However, we all grow up, learn, evolve and move away from what we know. But it can be very hard to shift our thinking.
It’s one of those things children hopefully notice early, as they venture out into the world, play dates at friends, time spent with wider whānau: they do it differently at their house, don’t they?
Cultures grow up in the same ways and in many ways it has felt like the current political climate, certainly in the west, has been one of regressing: not moving forward.
Pitched battle between the so called “right” and “left” over the environment, immigration, taxes and the role of government.
If you’ve been foolish enough to wander into the comments sections of any political blog site it’s hard not to be shocked by the degree of vehemence, the intensity of the righteousness.
I’m not pointing the finger, this dogmatic vehemence exists right across the political spectrum and beyond.
Perhaps it’s little wonder that it can feel like it’s so hard to get anything done, or even just to keep comments sections vaguely civil.
Ultimately though, being able to tolerate a different point of view can be deeply challenging. The more time we spend in our own online communities, surrounded by people who agree with us, the harder it gets.
Accepting that others have a different view can feel like losing or giving up something important to us.
But to be open to disagreement means at least trying to see the world from another’s point of view; to work at being able to get inside the head of another person and imagine how it is that someone comes to see the world so differently to you, such as people who roll up their towels before putting them away.
Because from understanding comes empathy. We don’t have to all agree but if we could at least engage in a civil and open conversation, that would be a start.
I’m never going to roll up my towels, though. That would be a step too far.
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