Heart Thinking

One of the biggest challenges in the WinSome strategy is coming to grips with the contagion of stupidness and wickedness that infects those who disagree with me.

Of course, I’m being facetious, but not far from honest. When someone rejects your ideas, or merely refuses to listen to them, it’s offensive. It’s as if you handed someone a dozen roses, and she slapped you across the face with the bouquet, teaing your cheek with the thorns.

That’s because we have devoted time — sometimes years — to coming to our current understanding of the way the world works. We’re genuinely excited about our ideas. It’s incomprehensible why someone else would not want to enjoy my enlightened state of being for himself.

So, when we get rejected, it’s difficult to rationalize it as anything other than stupidity or evil — particularly if we believe that our ideas are the only ones which can save the republic, and by extension, save the world. Contradictory ideas would, of course, produce the opposite result, condemning the world to another dark age.

A large part of this challenge lies in the different ways people think. I have heard people on both sides of the political aisle characterize their opponents’ intransigence in the same terms — irrational, heartless and evil.

Conservatives, for example, often characterize Progressives/Liberals as illogical or non-thinking. They see their rivals as entirely emotional, and thus resistent to rational arguments that are anchored in objective history, or timeless wisdom.

Progressives/Liberals, on the other hand, tend to view Conservatives as heartless, and entirely self-interested.

Doubtless these pejoratives could be applied broadly to most Americans at one time or another. But broad-brush characterizations of motives display a lack of discernment and wisdom. Not only because they’re wrong, but because they can scuttle our genuine attempts to help others develop a productive, joyful worldview.

The cure for this human condition lies in listening and in seeking to truly understand the other person’s perspective. Listening as an active sport takes strength, endurance and patience.

Remember, the goal is to win some, not to beat some.

Help the Lost Child

If your teenage child called you and said, “I’m lost, and the GPS app isn’t working,” what would you say to start?

Would you tell your child to drive faster? Make more turns? Drive straighter? Just think? Think harder? Would you tell him why it’s better to be home than to be lost, or would you rattle off the features and benefits of an excellent GPS app?

I doubt it.

I suspect you might attempt to determine where the child is, and then try to guide him home, step-by-step. You might even comfort him, and assure him that he’ll be home soon. If he’s angry or emotional, you’ll let him blow off steam, realizing that he’s merely afraid, and not actually angry at you. He doesn’t need a lecture. He needs help. And the only way you can help him, is if you can empathize with his emotional state and figure out where he is right now.

All metaphors eventually break down, but this one may help the next time you hear from someone who seems, figuratively speaking, “lost.”

When it comes to persuasion, you need to appreciate where the person is, and perhaps even how he got there. In addition, your task becomes much easier if you understand how he thinks.

If a Conservative dismisses a Progressive/Liberal as unthinking, or illogical, what he’s really done is admit he’s ignorant of how the other person processes information and makes decisions.

What Conservatives brand as irrational, emotional or knee-jerk reactionary, is more usefully termed “heart thinking.”

A person whose default setting is heart-thinking tends to feel the emotional impact of a situation or idea first. While processing what it means, or how to correct a problem, the heart-thinker rarely lapses into pure intellectual reason. Compassion remains a constant companion. The person feels intensely the pain of others, or the impact of injustice.

When done well, heart-thinking is a holistic approach that combines intellect and emotion, recognizing that every person and situation contains elements of both. However, like extreme rationalism, heart-thinking can lapse into unthinking emotionalism. The heart-thinker can become Utopian, inventing a perfect world in his mind and comparing this real one unfavorably to his ideal.

To communicate with a heart-thinker, it’s best to first see this method of grappling with the world as a virtue. I have a heart-thinking friend, and she’s drawn every hurting creature with a desire to help, to comfort, to heal. She’ll often step in and try to do something, at her own financial expense, not to mention investment of time. She literally hurts when others hurt. There’s much to admire about this.

Because I see her heart-thinking instinct as a virtue, I don’t dismiss it nor attack it, but rather employ it to connect with her. This often means taking complex, macro issues and stating them in personal, micro terms. I want her to feel the impact of my ideas, positively. I also want her heart to break over the impact of the alternative.

As an example, if I meet someone who embraces Communism. I don’t immediately attack the idea noting that millions have died as a natural consequence of that godless ideology. Instead, I think with my heart. What’s appealing about communism? Why was she attracted to it?

It’s because Communists see the coming new world order as a place of equality and sharing, where the oppression of the rich elite is replaced by the compassion of the collective. Never mind that this ideology has literally never resulted in this outcome. What’s important now is that the person I’m speaking with has a heart of gold, and wishes to live in an egalitarian Utopia where oppression is overcome, and where resources flow “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

The beauty of her heart-thinking is that she’ll welcome other ideas that produce the kind of results she envisions. So, for example, when she eventually learns that the current state of the world is a virtual-Utopia compared with just a hundred or two years ago, her heart may open a bit to alternative views. When she learns that free markets, individual liberty, constitutional governance, and secure personal property rights have led to rapid advances in health, medicine, and women’s rights, her heartbeat accelerates.

But these ideas related to what Karl Marx derisively called capitalism, are best expressed in personal terms. Through stories about remote villagers set free from dysentery by clean water, and drawn out of the mire by cellphones that allow them to start their own businesses, we reach the heart of these compassionate people, and give them a glimpse of the future they desperately desire.

Heart-thinking is not a handicap. It’s an approach to life. Your ideas merely need to be translated into that approach to reach the person who has a beautiful vision of the future, and has grown despondent about our failure to reach it.

To reach a heart thinker, it’s only rational to think with your heart.