If you haven’t noticed recently, social media has become a haven for keyboard warriors fighting ideological battles that in the end don’t really effect them. I have friends that are on political ends of the spectrum. What I find humorous is that many of these social media political posts are stacked right on top of one another in my news feed. I occasionally click to see the comments. If you want to see a sad commentary on the state of conversation these days look at comments. People insulting strangers…making assumptions because of what someone doesn’t say…stating the talking points of their side without even doing research. Frankly, it’s depressing to see adults treating one another like this. Hopefully if you are reading this, you don’t do this. If you do, let me recommend that you stop.
Now I’m not here to write about who is right or wrong. Plenty of people find lots of time to do that. I am writing about how one should go about disagreeing with people if they must. Here are some ideas that I use in my life when I disagree with someone.
Everyone has an opinion
While this is an obvious concept, it seems after looking through social media that some opinions are offensive. The problem is that everyone has grown up in different circumstances. These circumstances have caused people to form opinions. When you insult someone because of an opinion they hold, you are essentially insulting their identity. When you insult someone’s identity it usually becomes a game on insult fest.
You can be gracious and listen
I recently asked one half of a couple what he saw as a challenge in the relationship. He told me “I listen enough to win” Essentially, I only listen to be courteous and I’m formulating my response as the other person is talking. If you struggle with this skill of being a gracious listener in your own home, there is absolutely no way you will allow it in a conversation with strangers. What do I mean by grace? When you are in an argument with a sibling or partner is it your goal to win? What if your goal was to understand and be okay with losing? While a novel concept, your opinion doesn’t have to win out the day. The person you are in conflict with most likely wants to win as well. You can hopefully see then how intractable arguments become if both people simply want to win and not listen. Listening is a skill everyone should cultivate.
Let go of ego
Another novel concept. It takes skill and patience to actually listen while you are in a conversation. It takes interest and curiosity to then respond in an appropriate way. If two people aren’t doing this in a conversation there is no point. Often peoples ego’s get in the way of a productive conversation. I would suggest that when your ego stops a good conversation, it’s because you have no confidence and skill to engage appropriately. Having confidence in your position can give you the ability to sit in a conversation and listen to another person who disagrees with you and then still be okay with them personally.
An idea is not a person
This is a really hard one for people to grasp. Society has led many of us to believe that if you believe X you must then be X. This couldn’t be further from the truth. This is also known as identity politics. How do you know when you have succumbed to identity politics? When you unfriend someone on social media because they support candidate X or cause X. When you insult a stranger who doesn’t think like you. When you avoid people in social circles because they supported X proposition. Let’s be clear, people can still be kind, loving, generous, graceful, joyful, compassionate and fun and not agree with you. People are still people who have wants, desires and passions. If you CHOOSE to stop life with them because they hold a different view than you, I think that says more about you than the other person. It shows that YOU are actually the one that needs to change how you engage with and think about the other people you share this world with.
This is as simple as it sounds. If you find that you are the one insulting…unable to listen…unable to engage appropriately, listen well and respond graciously, then I am going to suggest you walk away from the discussion. Walking away will save your relationships and your mental health. You are always able to come back and engage. If you do, let me strongly suggest you do it in a way where you will encourage conversation not discourage it.