“Confidence is not being afraid to share your opinions; Wisdom is not being attached to them.”
~ LB Shannon
It is easy to get caught up in sharing your point of view with others. It’s a natural mode of communication. I share what I think about a subject and you share your thoughts about the subject. This type of communication goes on all day long. While it can be quite pleasant to talk to someone who shares your view, it can be frustrating to talk to someone with an opposing view.
More often than not, unhappy people will hold on to their opinions to the point of arguing. They would rather be right than let it go. They have convinced themselves that if they can’t get others to agree with them, they feel that their point of view is being threatened.
Agreement from other people is not necessary. Believe what you like, and let others do the same. Overly opinionated people haven’t learned that when others have an opinion that may be different from theirs, it is the other person’s right. They also haven’t learned that it is perfectly normal for other people to have varying opinions about many aspects of life. This type of closed-minded approach to communication can result in pompous thoughts of being smarter than the other person: “Obviously they are wrong and are too stupid to see it.” These thoughts of judgment, the aggravation, the bitterness that can arise from these confrontations is all because they had to show everyone that they were right. It was more important to be right than to be happy.
So how can we interact with others who have conflicting points of view from our own without conflict arising? It starts with being flexible with our own beliefs. Listen to their opinions. Ask questions like “Why do you think that is?” or “Where did you learn that?” The second key to interacting with opposing viewpoints is to understand that it is not always necessary to share your opposing thoughts. It isn’t your job to teach everyone around you to see things like you do. It’s okay to allow them to think differently than you do.
The most noticeable instances in my life concerning differing opinions are always politics. I’ve reached a point where I no longer put my two cents in these conversations. People are entitled to see the world from varying points of view, as each of us is unique in our perspective and life experiences. By not attempting to invalidate other’s opinions, I maintain peace of mind among some very opinionated people. Sometimes I even listen and ask questions so that I can begin to understand why they see the world the way they do.
Joe: “I think the moon is a spaceship for Martians.”
Mark: “That’s an interesting point of view! What makes you think that?”
Joe: “My grandfather told me when I was young.”
Mark: “Your grandfather sounds like an interesting guy. What else did he teach you?”
In this example, Joe shared an unpopular point of view about the moon. Instead of attempting to dispel Joe’s belief, or belittle him for his belief, Mark chose not to challenge the point of view that the moon is a spaceship. Mark asked for more information about Joe’s belief, which showed interest and also revealed the root of Joe’s odd belief. When Mark heard that Joe’s grandfather told him that the moon was a spaceship, he steered the conversation toward the grandfather. This technique of redirecting conversations is a useful tool for avoiding heated discussions when you come across a potential conflict of opinion.
Jane: “I can’t believe you are still married to John after he cheated on you again!”
Mary: “It’s understandable why you would feel that way. So how’s the new job going?”
In this example, Jane shared her unsolicited opinion about Mary’s marriage. Mary, in an attempt to avoid the subject, validated Jane’s right to her opinion but neither agreed nor disagreed. Instead, she changed the subject. Mary knew that it wasn’t necessary for her to defend her personal choices. She let Jane’s comment go, not choosing to start a debate on the subject of marriage and infidelity.
It’s not necessary to validate your actions and viewpoints to others. Be confident in your life choices and beliefs, but be willing to hear different points of view.
It is unnecessary to defend your point of view. Allow others the right to have their own opinions.
Ponder these questions. Be honest with yourself.
- Do you take yourself so serious that when you meet people with a difference of opinion you feel the need to set them straight?
- Do you feel irritated or even threatened by listening to opposing points of view?
- Is it your job to teach everyone to think like you do?
The next time someone shares an opinion or suggests an idea that is different from your own, see if you can resist the urge to share your point of view or push your own agenda. This exercise can be as simple as not being a backseat driver when someone else is driving or as challenging as listening to someone with a completely different political viewpoint.
Be aware of how it feels to rein in your ego. The uneasiness you feel is your ego fighting for control. As you practice ego awareness, it will become easier to recognize the ego’s controlling manipulations and easier to ignore it. When you can come to a point of humility, not always having to prove your opinions and allowing others to have alternate views, it brings more peace to relationships and to your own mind.
Practice being an observer or a listener without getting into debates. Make an effort to hold your tongue without putting in your two-cents point of view, even if you think they are totally wrong. This is a valuable skill that will provide much less drama in your life.