Judging by the typical exchanges on Facebook in recent weeks, you’d think it was impossible to have a calm, rational exchange of words and opinions. Fortunately, the latter is exactly what I experienced yesterday during a phone conversation with someone who holds very different political views than I.
Thankfully, kind disagreements are still possible.
The recent election has everyone in a tizzy. Arguments have been escalating from threats of violence to actual physical assault and property damage. All to express an opinion. When did words become an inadequate form of expression?
It’s no secret that Americans are highly skilled at being opinionated. We’ve been freely expressing our opinions for generations, and we often say whatever pops into our head without giving much thought to how it will be received by others, or what might happen as a result. Instead of responding, we react. Instead of being thoughtful, we become defensive to protect our own beliefs at any cost.
That’s part of the reason I rarely engage in social media discussions. Unless a positive outcome is at least plausible (i.e. if name calling hasn’t yet begun), I simply scroll on through. It’s just not worth it. Bickering never accomplishes anything, and most of us aren’t going to change our minds just because a complete stranger posts a few sentences.
My father’s wise words often come to mind I these scenarios
“If nothing good will come out of it: don’t say it, don’t do it.”
Not that I’ve always lived by those words, of course. I’ve made a lot of mistakes of my own, yet his words have proven to be true over and over again.
So, as I prepared to engage in a political conversation with someone who passionately disagrees with me on a number of issues, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t exactly optimistic that it would go well. I had already started planning my exit strategy. What other topics could I transition to if things got heated? The weather seemed like an innocuous subject to debate. How about upcoming plans for the holidays? Yes. Perfect.
But to my surprise, we were able to keep our shit together. We expressed our opinions, along with the reasons behind them, without personally attacking each other.
And you know what, I have more respect for this person because of it. (I can only hope he feels the same.) I won’t pretend that it wasn’t uncomfortable at times. There were moments when I thought to myself: He cannot seriously believe this nonsense!!!
But the important thing is that we listened to each other. We waited for each other to finish our thoughts, remaining open to hearing an opposing view. And in the end, we both concluded the same thing: “You may be right. I guess we’ll soon see.”
When was the last time you had a kind disagreement? And how can you make your next disagreement kind?