We all have the tendency to expose ourselves to information and associate with people who share our view of the world. It is a wonderfully comfortable place to be; it may even feel like being wrapped in a nice warm blanket, helping us feel accepted and even righteous in our views. At times, it may even feel like the whole world shares our view. You are not alone in feeling this way. This is such a pervasive phenomenon that social psychologists have a name for it, they call it “living in an echo chamber“ (Barbera et al. 2015; Barsade et al., 2018). This feeling of comfort and familiarity is so strong that when we hear or see something that is different from what we believe, we reject it like a foreign antibody. We discount or negate this alternative view. And, we may even react with moral outrage that someone could believe something different.
I’m not suggesting that strongly believing in your views is wrong. However, being open to ideas and different views can lead to a more compassionate and kinder world. Our mindfulness practices help us to become aware of our biases and judgments, so that we can learn to take in unfiltered information. Opening our filters does not need to impact our beliefs, it simply gives us the opportunity to view something from another person’s point of view. It gives us options – that is, to continue to believe what we believe or to adapt our thinking.
By keeping an open mind, we can take in a wider breadth of information which may help us improve our decision-making or, at a very minimum, increase our level of empathy. Accepting that there are different ways to look at something doesn’t mean you have to agree. Nor does it mean that you shouldn’t share your views. It simply means to treat others with respect and kindness even when we disagree with them.
Why not have the courage to listen to someone or even media that has a different point of view than you? Don’t just listen for only those things you agree with or to convince someone that you’re right, but listen for understanding. You might learn something that will give you the courage to step outside of your own ‘echo chamber’.
If you would like a place to get started, below is a brief exercise that might help you improve your ability to listen. That is, listen for understanding.
Barberá, P., Jost, J. T., Nagler, J., Tucker, J. A., & Bonneau, R. (2015). Tweeting from left to right: Is online political communication more than an echo chamber? Psychological Science, 26(10), 1531–1542.
Barsade, Signal, Coutifaris, Constantinos, & Pillemer, Julianna (2018). Emotion contagion in organizational life. Research in Organizational Behavior, 38, 137-151.