What to do with people we disagree with?

Diversity. A buzzing word in today’s world no doubt. I believe it is a noble thing and should be pursued in all earnestness. Normally, diversity is sought out in areas such as gender, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs and socioeconomic statuses – all of which are great. One area that we rarely seek diversity in is in the area of thought or mind-set. If my memory serves me right, I have never come across a statement saying an organisation or person is looking for people with a different mind-set. All I see, especially on LinkedIn, is that people want to work with likeminded people. I too want that.

Ironically, no matter how hard we try to be surrounded by likeminded people, ‘non-likeminded’ people are ever around us. We constantly meet people with different values, religion or political view from us. What should we do then, in such a situation?

The lenses through which we see the world are powerful. Powerful as they may be, these lenses are formed from our experiences and upbringing amongst other factors. Since experiences and upbringing differ from one person to other, so does the lenses through which we see the world. Therefore, the first thing to know when dealing with people who do not share the same viewpoint as us is that there are many ways of looking at the world. Before you insult someone, call them names or hit them in the face, realise that people may see the world differently from you. That does not make them more or less human than you are. So treat them as such – a human being!

Plurality does not equal relevance. In as much everyone is entitled to their opinion, not all opinions are right. In fact, the law of non-contradiction is clear on this: given two opposing propositions, both of them can’t be true at the same time. We know this. That is why we feel people who have an opinion different from us are wrong and we are right. If this be the case, that we are right, then the best thing to do with someone who disagrees with us is to lovingly share our opinion and reason(s) for our opinion with them. This is hard but it is an art we need to learn. We need to be able to have conversations with people. We need to be able to talk and listen. It is not enough to brush off conversations with “you are making me uncomfortable” statements. Granted statements like this may be genuine and one ought to protect themselves from uncomfortable situations as required, people tend to use the same to simply avoid having their beliefs or opinions challenged. Especially us young people who seem to care more about feelings than facts. Again, feelings matter but the truth matters more. If we believe that we are right and the other person is wrong, it is only loving that we talk to the other person so that they get to know the truth.

This is not only necessary for the other person so that they know and hopefully believe the truth. If anything, it is more important for us. We are wrong more often than we would like to admit. More often than not, we think we are right and anyone with an opposing view is wrong. One thing I do for fun is go to the comment section of news articles/Facebook posts even before reading the article/post. (You can question me later on my choice of hobbies haha). What is found there is almost unbelievable. Try and see what a good number of viewers of Fox news say about those who follow CNN. What some fans of CNN say about Fox news readers in no good either. Broadly speaking, just think of the conservative vs liberal debates. If you only listened to one party only, you would be almost guaranteed that the other is a monster. Sadly, the reality is that most of the time, we let ourselves remain in a bubble where we consume information that already aligns with our beliefs. What if we are wrong? What if the other person/party is right? It wouldn’t hurt to have a civilised conversation with them, would it?

I do realise that having such conversations is not easy. Beliefs are an integral part of being a person and having them challenged is an experience each of us would like to avoid. Added to this is the fact that some people who oppose us might not be willing to listen. In fact, their motive might be to tear us down. However, I do believe truth is an ethic we should hold in high regard. We should seek after it and share it with others also. If it so happens that the process of dialogue turns into a monologue or anything beyond what you can take, taking a step back is appropriate. It is okay to stop a conversation and protect yourself and your mental health. In so doing, just make sure you don’t build a shell around you that shields you from any healthy challenge.

What then should we do to people we disagree with? Know that people have different experiences and upbringing that shape the way they look at life. Treat everyone with love! Also, learn to converse while controlling your emotions. Talk to people because you might be wrong. Crying your way out of being challenged might not be the best tactic. Even so, learn when to say “no” because not everyone is out there in search of the truth. Lastly, remember that the goal is not to have everyone think the same way. It would be a boring world. In talking to people sometimes, aim to simply get a different viewpoint instead of convincing them to cross over to your side. You will find that people we disagree with are actually very cool people also. Whatever you do, carry love with you.

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