There have been a number of inspiring TED talks focused on the benefits of viewpoint diversity and open inquiry. Many touch on the need to bridge political divides, work together and listen to one another.
On this page, we present a selection of these talks embedded for easy viewing. Have one to recommend? Email email@example.com
Elif Shafak: The Revolutionary Power of Diverse Thought (2017)
“From populist demagogues, we will learn the indispensability of democracy,” says novelist Elif Shafak. “From isolationists, we will learn the need for global solidarity. And from tribalists, we will learn the beauty of cosmopolitanism.” A native of Turkey, Shafak has experienced firsthand the devastation that a loss of diversity can bring — and she knows the revolutionary power of plurality in response to authoritarianism. In this passionate, personal talk, she reminds us that there are no binaries, in politics, emotions and our identities.
Zach Woods: Why It’s Worth Listening To People We Disagree With (2018)
We get stronger, not weaker, by engaging with ideas and people we disagree with, says Zachary R. Wood. In an important talk about finding common ground, Wood makes the case that we can build empathy and gain understanding by engaging tactfully and thoughtfully with controversial ideas and unfamiliar perspectives. “Tuning out opposing viewpoints doesn’t make them go away,” Wood says. “To achieve progress in the face of adversity, we need a genuine commitment to gaining a deeper understanding of humanity.”
Jonathan Haidt: How Common Threats Can Make Common (Political) Ground (2012)
If an asteroid were headed for Earth, we’d all band together and figure out how to stop it, just like in the movies, right? And yet, when faced with major, data-supported, end-of-the-world problems in real life, too often we retreat into partisan shouting and stalemate. Jonathan Haidt shows us a few of the very real asteroids headed our way — some pet causes of the left wing, some of the right — and suggests how both wings could work together productively to benefit humanity as a whole.
Megan Phelps-Roper: I Grew Up in the Westboro Baptist Church, Here’s Why I Left (2017)
What’s it like to grow up within a group of people who exult in demonizing … everyone else? Megan Phelps-Roper shares details of life inside America’s most controversial church and describes how conversations on Twitter were key to her decision to leave it. In this extraordinary talk, she shares her personal experience of extreme polarization, along with some sharp ways we can learn to successfully engage across ideological lines.
Arthur Brooks: A Conservative’s Plea: Let’s Work Together (2016)
Conservatives and liberals both believe that they alone are motivated by love while their opponents are motivated by hate. How can we solve problems with so much polarization? In this talk, social scientist Arthur Brooks shares ideas for what we can each do as individuals to break the gridlock. “We might just be able to take the ghastly holy war of ideology that we’re suffering under and turn it into a competition of ideas,” he says.
Kathryn Schulz: On Being Wrong (2011)
Most of us will do anything to avoid being wrong. But what if we’re wrong about that? “Wrongologist” Kathryn Schulz makes a compelling case for not just admitting but embracing our fallibility.
Julia Galef: Why You Think You’re Right, Even When You’re Wrong (2016)
Perspective is everything, especially when it comes to examining your beliefs. Are you a soldier, prone to defending your viewpoint at all costs — or a scout, spurred by curiosity? Julia Galef examines the motivations behind these two mindsets and how they shape the way we interpret information, interweaved with a compelling history lesson from 19th-century France. When your steadfast opinions are tested, Galef asks: “What do you most yearn for? Do you yearn to defend your own beliefs or do you yearn to see the world as clearly as you possibly can?”
Stanley McChrystal: Listen, Learn …then Lead (2011)
Four-star general Stanley McChrystal shares what he learned about leadership over his decades in the military. How can you build a sense of shared purpose among people of many ages and skill sets? By listening and learning — and addressing the possibility of failure.
Celeste Headlee: How to have a better conversation (2015)
When your job hinges on how well you talk to people, you learn a lot about how to have conversations — and that most of us don’t converse very well. Celeste Headlee has worked as a radio host for decades, and she knows the ingredients of a great conversation: Honesty, brevity, clarity and a healthy amount of listening. In this insightful talk, she shares 10 useful rules for having better conversations. “Go out, talk to people, listen to people,” she says. “And, most importantly, be prepared to be amazed.”