The other four sections, “Curiosity,” “People,” “Paths,” and “Honesty,” combine interviews, examples, charts, and bulleted sections with key phrases to remember, such as “voice your concerns” and “pause and hold” . They describe how and when to enter into discussions with those of different blocks (and, most importantly, when not). Guzmán’s recipe for what is wrong with our society is to replace certainty with curiosity, to stop seeing people as representatives of groups we can reject and instead see them as individuals whose backgrounds determine their beliefs. She writes, “If there’s one question I want to convince you to ask more often, it’s ‘What am I missing?'”
Then, Guzmán says, it becomes possible to have what she calls INTOIT moments (for “I Never Thought of It That Way”), where we see the person behind politics. Just as the path to better health is often disappointingly low-tech—not a panacea but the dull and difficult mundaneness of sleep hygiene and mindful eating—the cure for polarization is the simple and underappreciated art of conversation. But of course simple doesn’t mean easy.
Guzmán writes that she happily gets lost in interviews with people with whom she has little in common, seeing their differing opinions as invitations to learn rather than direct threats to her beliefs. I would have liked to have seen more cathartic stories of connectedness, more direct examples of what that looks like; I didn’t have as many INTOIT moments reading it as I’d hoped. I was drawn to the title because, as a frequent opinion writer, that’s the reaction I hope to elicit. Not ‘You’re right’, but ‘Interesting point’. But while I am professionally required to consider points of view that differ from mine, and love the emotional and mental training this can provide, I am often unruly interpersonally and demand that good friends see things my way.
Guzmán’s lesson seems to be to give up the need to be right and focus on the need to stay connected. The book’s biggest offer, I think, is permission to reclaim people we may have dumped for ideological reasons; such connections will not tarnish us, but can enrich us. I see this book helping estranged parties equally invested in bridging a chasm—it could be used as reading material for broken families striving for a harmonious Thanksgiving dinner.
Would the same techniques work on a larger scale, in a country where 62 percent of Americans feel unsafe to express their political views, when the right and left are so extreme that more people are declaring political homelessness every day? Perhaps partly because I live in such a politically separate world, I often disagree with members of my own party. Can a book like Guzmán’s take us past intra-party battles over race and gender? National screaming contests about infrastructure and abortion?