Persuasion and the art of listening

My father sent me an interesting article by Zaria Gorvett of the BBC discussing the ways in which society is becoming more polarised, and pointing out that talking to like-minded friends about a subject actually tends to make people more polarised on that subject and less open to new information.  It’s interesting, because this occurs even when people are deliberately having these conversations to try to add nuance to their opinions – and because apparently it turns out that the more information people acquire, the more polarised they tend to be.

(I wonder if this last bit is because the more information you have, the more confident you are that you have the full and true picture, for which there can be only one possible explanation?)

I went to three presentations in the last three days and while the subject matter was wildly different, I found myself noticing some common threads between the presentations and this article.  This post is my attempt to tease some of this out and make sense of it.  (A quick disclaimer: these are my notes on the presentations I went to – the things that stayed with me may not have been the key messages that the presenters were trying to get across, and it’s entirely possible that I’m not representing them entirely accurately!  If you are one of the presenters and are reading this, and I have managed to misquote or mischaracterise what you said, please comment, and I will fix it forthwith!)

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