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Lois M. Collins: Will 2014 be the year I listen more, rant less?

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 31 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

I want to pay more attention to the thinking of those with whom I don’t agree, politically or philosophically, so I can be certain that I’m not missing something important or meaningful.

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New year, new chance to make — and probably not keep — resolutions, right? A recent poll conducted by Noom, Inc., found that 90 percent of the 11,000 people it surveyed internationally plan to make a resolution for 2014, though 62 percent of them will fail to keep it.

My goals this year are different than any I’ve tried before. This year, I’m going after a different type of bad habit: the kind of thought processes that make one lazy and self-satisfied.

I want to pay more attention to the thinking of those with whom I don’t agree, politically or philosophically, so I can be certain that I’m not missing something important or meaningful.

It’s too easy to listen only to those with whom we agree, creating a sort of self-congratulatory echo chamber: I oppose — or support — Obamacare, so I will only pay attention to the writings, rantings and viewpoints of others who share my opinion.” If someone has a differing viewpoint, I will discount it and believe they are either wrong, stupid or driven by a hidden agenda. The point is to discount all ideas that are in opposition to mine.

It’s a pattern that most of us embrace to a degree, across multiple hot-button issues. I have applied it myself during various elections and as I’ve considered diverse topics such as abortion, gay marriage, school vouchers, taxes and much more.

It is becoming clear to me, though, that it’s an unhelpful game that gets more play than it should.

I’m also going to try to separate out political agendas and personal philosophies as I consider research and surveys. I think it will make it easier to tell what a study actually says and why it should matter.

I am fundamentally opposed to letting a viewpoint dictate what research finds. I want my science as pure as I can get it, even if I don’t like the end result. I’ve been thinking about that a lot, particularly in terms of family coverage. We all have ideas about how children should be raised, but I am only helped as a parent by research if it shows me what I am doing that helps or harms my children. If research pats me on the head and says “good job” because that’s what I want to hear, it doesn’t help my family one iota. If it tells me, though, that I helicopter too much or do other things that are harmful to my children, I can make some decisions and try to change the behavior.

That same is true of any research. You can have too much caffeine, sodium or parental interference. It’s good to know.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend recently about God. I believe. She doesn’t. But neither of our opinions changes even slightly whether or not God does in fact exist. You can’t public-opinion-poll reality away.

Noom makes mobile apps that provide nutrition and exercise coaching, so it has a special interest in the question or resolutions because the top three things people vow to do as a new year rolls around are save money, improve their personal health and get organized.

Sometime in January, slightly more than one-fourth of the resolute have become quitters. The number rises to 54 percent by March. And when the following December rolls around, only about one in five have made it all the way through the year and stuck to their goal.

I’ve been there, so I’m not going to make fun of anyone who failed to do whatever seemed like a burning year-round goal when the year began.

I don’t know how my own quest will go, but I’m going to give it a shot. Civility and an ability to listen to other viewpoints are worth cultivating.

EMAIL: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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