Recent elections have indicated that the majority of voters are moderates which is why I got these questions: Why are moderates so quiet? Why do we hear so much from those on the extreme edges and so little from moderates?
These are intriguing questions. I believe the answer is passion. Let’s examine the impact passion has on us without regard to politics.
Passion is spectral
Like most things in life passion is a spectrum. It runs from unbridled passion to complete indifference. In the middle lie the moderates, people with strong beliefs who are respectful of others’ beliefs. With this understanding we can begin to assess the nature, beliefs and actions of those at various points on the spectrum.
Those who are most passionate in their beliefs are very vocal in expressing their beliefs. They
not only want others to hear their beliefs, they want others to accept their beliefs and change their behaviors accordingly.
In other words, they try to impose their beliefs on others although they’d deny that if it was suggested to them that that’s what they were trying to do.
Their actions are usually not intentionally vicious or controlling although they can be. Generally, it’s that they are so passionate in their beliefs that they believe it is in others’ best interests for them to embrace what they believe.
What they fail to realize is that the more they try to get others to change, the greater the resistance they create. In extreme cases of passion, this can lead to frustration, anger and violence.
Let’s contrast this with what moderates experience.
Often moderates hold strong beliefs as well. The difference is that they don’t feel that their position is the only position available. They are open to hearing others’ beliefs and respecting others’ rights to those beliefs. Consequently, they have no desire (no passion) for changing others’ beliefs…unless they infringe upon their rights or the rights of others.
That doesn’t mean that they’re likely to adopt others’ beliefs and act upon them. It does mean that they’ll allow others to act upon their beliefs without trying to change them…unless their actions infringe on others’ rights.
So what does all this mean for you?
Remember that passion, like all other aspects of life, is a spectrum. The spectrum runs from complete indifference to unbridled passion.
It’s nigh on impossible to change the minds and behaviors of those on the unbridled passion end of the spectrum. They are so passionate about their beliefs that they are rigid in their thinking. They believe they are right and no one is going to convince them otherwise; something that becomes evident in their responses to challenges to their beliefs.
The same can be true of those who are completely indifferent. They simply don’t care enough one way or the other to engage in an exchange of ideas. Efforts to engage them are usually fruitless.
For those in between these extremes who are beginning to become more vocal about their beliefs, you can temper their passion by reminding them that stating their beliefs is fine but that trying to impose their beliefs on others will create resistance for the very idea they’re trying to promote.
It’s also helpful to tell them: Unless you are willing to respect others’ rights to their values and beliefs, you invite others to impose their beliefs on you. That typically gives them pause; none of us wants to have others’ values and beliefs imposed upon us.
Finally, be alert to the beginning of extreme movements. Become vocal in countering extreme messages. Unless moderates become more vocal in these instances, extremists will control the dialogue and, with enough passion, impose their beliefs upon you. By countering their messages with more moderate and respectful messages, we can encourage other moderates to resist the movement and become more vocal as well.
For our kids
Passion has the potential to sway even the most reasonable people as we’ve seen in recent years. Kids, because they are in their formative years and have little experience from which to draw, are even more susceptible to impassioned language.
As you see kids adopting more extreme positions and/or trying to impose their will on others, use the analysis of unbridled passion and moderate positions to help them understand that passion is good in the pursuit of what they want from life, not when it results in a desire to impose beliefs or control others’ behaviors.
Also help them understand what their likelihood of success will be in dealing with unbridled passion, complete indifference and those in between. You’ll assure them a more reasoned and enjoyable life.
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