Something Amazing Happened When I Befriended Someone I Don’t Agree With

How I found a way to care about the actual truth

Thanks for reading past the headline.

This isn’t just another shameless plug for my podcast, Bipartisan Bros. This is, rather, a story about a major lesson I’ve learned from making it. Like with anything good in life, the knowledge we gain in the process of creating the thing/getting there is as useful and amazing as the final product.

The ‘bipartisan bromance’ begins

Back in 2012, I made a silly, kind of racist, but pretty funny YouTube video about a pre-owned car salesman with anger issues. A lot of people seemed to enjoy it. Of course, I got both negative feedback (about the race stuff) and positive feedback (ie., “Dis guy be funny and nicelookin like Tom Cruise — he has potential”).

During the summer of 2015, I constructed an elaborate “choose your own adventure” project on Medium. After watching my story go semi-viral, someone named Gret Glyer shared it on Twitter.

I thanked the kind stranger. Then, he recognized me from somewhere else.

‘Same page, different book’

Later in 2015, this Gret character and I got to talking: Wouldn’t it be a cool idea — with the growing polarization of the political climate (keep in mind, this was in the heat of the 2016 presidential primary races) — for two people from opposite ends of the aisle to explore issues from both sides?

From my social media and Medium posts, Gret could tell I lean left politically. He, as I know now, leans right. We exchanged some emails about our anti-polarization idea, conceiving it as a blog at first.

A screenshot of an email I sent to myself after an early conversation with Gret. (I accidentally used The Bigger Picture’s email because I was probably driving. Whoops.)

The concept was simple: Create posts using a back-and-forth style to inspire healthy conversation about important topics. Too often, online discussions devolve into name-calling and degradation. We wanted to not only have mutually respectful conversations for ourselves, but to change the way people saw the other side.

Though our original concept focused more on religious differences, leveraging our diverse backgrounds to explore complex issues from multiple angles remains a staple. Recently, we’ve covered topics like death, sex, belief systems, gender roles, and the broken political system — and, as advertised, we don’t agree on a lot of things.

But, as we’ve discovered, we agree on a lot, too. For example, we agree that even if we don’t see eye-to-eye with someone, we support that person’s right to believe whatever it is.

Throughout the process of planning, launching, and producing our project, I’m not only learning about a different perspective. Now, I find myself actually standing up for people I disagree with when my political allies attack their character.

I find myself more skeptical, in a good way. I find myself focusing on the actual truth more, rather than succumbing to confirmation bias and assuming truth in whatever supports my existing beliefs. By talking to Gret every week, I’ve learned to open my mind even more. This helps me to see the gray areas, because most issues are not black and white.

Looking back on those initial conversations, our current realization of the “anti-polarization” project stays true to a lot of our original themes: open-mindedness, embracing the gray areas of issues, not succumbing to confirmation bias.

If you read the email I sent myself above, you’ll see my original description of a logo for the project: “Gret to Ryan, with spectrum of colors and tagline.”

I’d say, regardless of how we’ve evolved so far — and how we continue to evolve moving forward — our vision is coming more and more to life with each episode.

Shameless plug

Want to check out the latest episode of Bipartisan Bros? Listen here and be sure to subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher. Also, we encourage you to join the conversation. Looking forward to your thoughts, and thanks for reading!

Find more of Ryan’s writing in The Bigger Picture, Human Parts, Endless Magazine, Life Tips, Slackjaw, Navigating the Sea of Singledom, and, of course, The Coffeelicious. You can also follow Ryan on Twitter here or check out his website here. He loves compliments and pictures of puppies.