The term “devil’s advocate” describes someone willing to take an opposing position in a debate that they might or might not necessarily agree with, just to explore the position further. For some (like my children), this is a really annoying practice—and I’ve been ailing from it my entire life. Maybe it’s because I was born under the zodiac sign of Pisces—those fish swimming in two different directions that can’t make up their minds.
I’ve often wondered why I want to argue the contrarian perspective as if it were my own. I know it’s helped me learn and be far more open-minded to ideas to which I might have otherwise never considered or given credence.
If someone states something that I agree or disagree with, by immersing myself in the opposite perspective for a debate, my thinking is forced to become clearer, aligned or maybe even totally flipped around.
Genuinely trying to find points to validate an opposing position enables us to see things from a different light. (It also sometimes upsets the counterparty, who might not really be up for a debate, so it pays to ask to share another perspective before charging forward.) By doing so, we acquire new information + an education, while biases are forced to be confronted.
By looking at something differently, we can see why the issue might be mired in misunderstandings. Those who risk seeing all sides of an argument have quite different perspectives than one who only sees one side. By challenging ourselves to see multiple sides, the likelihood of understanding any person or situation increases.
Experiences and debates throughout life combine to make us who we are. Yet we are not concrete. If we allow our conversations (and life) to flow, our thoughts are more like water: Able to form new shapes based on the “containers” or situations to which we open ourselves through willingness to hear different perspectives. Suddenly we may find ourselves exploring new ideas— freed from habitual thinking, breaking out & trying new things—because it expands our perspectives on what is possible or the proverbial “only way.” We gain new ways to see ourselves, others & situations. Exposure is growth. Growth is invigorating.