Every day it seems like there’s a protest of one form or another. I live in Austin, and it’s not that unusual. It seems to be almost a ritualistic thing for some people, and I believe they have every right to protest their views.

That said, I believe they are inefficient.

I’ve often witnessed groups of one sect or another stray into zealous, uncommunicative hordes. They defend one doctrine, certainly, but they do not communicate nor seek to expand it.

Communication requires leaving your doctrine and visiting someone else’s for a while. It requires letting go of your values and stepping into someone else’s native perception of events.

It is difficult for a religious individual to change the mind of an atheist, or vice versa. The two groups rarely share the same values, and it is uncommon for either of them to put on the lens of the other. The two groups lack each others’ central appeals, their most core beliefs, and they don’t dare even play with the ideas of the other. They could have core values of family, conservatism, god, equality, liberalism, money, tradition, experimentation… anything, but as long as they refuse to explore the narration of their opponents’ values, they will not see nor communicate anyone effectively.

Those protesters wouldn’t dare fathom their opponents’ mindset, as their opponents wouldn’t dare fathom those protesters’. However, the world strays no closer to the truth nor a form of understanding so long as either sect confirms it’s beliefs by only comparing their viewpoint with those of the same perception.

Approaching and entertaining the central appeals of others’ beliefs is exceptionally useful in starting a real dialogue or conversation. Making the first steps and meeting others on their home turf, joining them in the state of mind or viewpoint that they already have, begins a relationship of trust and understanding. It lets them know that you are there witnessing and sharing (at least for a time) their values as well.

People don’t like to have what they believe pissed on. They don’t want to be told the things they hold sacred are dismissible, rejectable or wrong. This makes sense for the pastor and his faith, or the scientist and his empiricism, but it also makes sense for whatever you hold dear. When people identify so strongly with one set of beliefs or another, criticism thereof becomes like criticism of themselves. No one wants their race criticized (in cruelty), much less their family, and even less so themselves.

When you approach someone’s values, when you take a moment to share what they hold sacred, you take a moment to share their identity with them, you get to hold a piece of their world, and they will be much more likely to hold a piece of yours. Who knows, you might even find a piece they are holding more relevant to your life, and the tensions and zeal you hold can relax as well.