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Judging by the typical exchanges seen on Facebook these days, you would 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 world views than I do.
Thankfully, kind disagreements are still possible.
The recent election has everyone in a tizzy. Arguments are escalating from threats of violence into 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 opinons 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, protecting 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. Bickering never accomplishes anything, and most of us aren’t changing our minds because of a comment from a stranger.
My fathers’s wise words often come to mind:
“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, 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 starting 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 actually 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, “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?