In today's society many of us feel like we have to choose sides and take a stand on every issue. Often we feel like our position has to be firmly stated, defended, and even justified in order to be respected. And if we disagree with a family member or friend then the assumption is that the relationship will never be as close or connected. Some even believe that disagreeing on political views, religious beliefs, and societal norms can create such conflict that our relationships will not survive. In fact, some people are convinced that having a difference of opinion prevents us from having a personal and loving relationship. But is this really true? Can't we disagree on our views and maintain a close friendship and connection? With our different life experiences, thoughts, and emotions about a variety of issues it is understandable that we would have differing opinions. Unfortunately, our society has become incredibly polarized on so many topics that we feel compelled to choose sides and identify with one viewpoint over the other. What keeps people so adamant about their views that they cannot have a respectful conversation with someone of an opposing viewpoint?
Often fear or anger causes us to overstate our position and vehemently defend our viewpoint. Our world is filled with both of those emotions and the internet, the media, and other sources of information contribute to fueling our pool of negative emotions. We are bombarded with an overabundance of information, some inaccurate and most overstated. The task of discerning truth from lies can be daunting and time consuming. We can probably identify both accurate and inaccurate information from all ends of the media spectrum and therefore need to take a breath when confronted by those with strongly held, vehemently stated differing opinions. Both the emotions of fear and anger often emerge from a powerless feeling and a lack of control. Sadly, these emotions we feel are often displaced onto those around us based on the position they assume. What is the healthy response and how do we maintain healthy connections?
The best way to deal with conflict is to acknowledge the emotion it triggers and not project those feelings onto others. We may be upset, angry, or fearful about life circumstances or current events, but taking it out on others who don't share in your opinion is unfair and unwarranted, especially since it could jeopardize the relationship. This is reminiscent of a child going to each parent separately over an issue to get their way or manipulate the parents into focusing on the conflict between each other instead of the child. We have allowed our opinions on certain issues to dominate our personal relationships. The goal with conflict is resolution, but sometimes management is the next best alternative. We all need to work on being more tolerant and accepting of others' positions and opinions even when they're different from our own. It doesn't mean we can't voice our opinion, but do it respectfully and kindly. When talking to someone who has a different view, listen first, and acknowledge their position, and never attack their character. We need to work on appreciating our relationships and value our connections without trying to convince others to share our position. When we allow ourselves to really listen to opposing positions, we hold our own views up to a light and this allows us to grow and stretch. Ultimately our relationships should have greater value and importance over our differing viewpoints.