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Psychologist Dr. Katherine Kinzler: the Role of Speech in Polarized Times

“In polarized times, think of the other person as an individual and not member of the other group.”

On July 22nd, Merion West‘s Kevin Turner was joined by Dr. Katherine Kinzler as she provided her perspective on the psychology underpinning today’s polarized public discourse. Dr. Kinzler is a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago. Her new book How You Say It  deals with language and how it dominates our mindsets and behaviors. In her book, Dr. Kinzler portrays the evolution of language in our lives and suggests some remedies for better understanding others and having more tolerance.

“When we think about social groups and social biases, it is no surprise that we divide the world into groups,” says Dr. Kinzler, adding that this is highly evident in the culture today.

It is not just “race, gender, nationality, politics and so on” that divide us but also the way we speak.

“It is so critical on how we define ourselves, how we interact with other people,” she adds, which is linked with the “amount of prejudice and bias in the world.”

Dr. Kinzler believes that a practical way people can better understand others is to harness their “remarkable ability to learn more than one language.”

In polarized times, she thinks being receptive to novel ways of speaking is critical.

“Being open to people who speak in different ways and being open communicat[ing] with them is just so important.”

However, Dr. Kinzler suggests that there is another part of communication that is just as important as the act of speaking:

“Part of your communication is hearing what they say, [and] also part of your communication is how much you are listening”.

Watch the full conversation below:

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