How do you deal with people who disagree with you?
Whether it’s online or IRL, if you have any strong opinions (or a pulse), someone is going to disagree with you on something at some point. Sometimes respectfully, sometimes not. And you know what? I don’t like it! I don’t like it one bit. It’s uncomfortable, and I’ve faced that discomfort a lot in the last few weeks. So, as I often question my emotional responses, I’m wondering why? Why am I uncomfortable? Why do I respond the way I do, when faced with an opinion that differs from mine? Why do I want everyone who is important to me, and even the people who I don’t know, to agree with me and value what I value? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to just know what I feel, I want to know why I feel it.
Having different opinions with people is just part of life, and for me, it’s part of many (or all) of my relationships. There’s really no way around it. On one hand, you could try and surround yourself with people who share ALL the same values, beliefs, and opinions as you (not possible) – and live a very comfortable, stagnant, and boring life. On the other hand, you can learn to be comfortable disagreeing with people you love and strangers alike, be challenged and strengthened in certain issues, and grow in grace, tolerance, and love. And to be totally honest, you really don’t have an option, because – surprise – NO ONE shares all your values, beliefs, and opinions. N O O N E.
Does this freak anyone else out??? This keeps me up at night! I am SO relational, a huge people pleaser, and so naturally I also despise conflict in my relationships. But, being a very opinionated and transparent person as well, this balance doesn’t really exist; the balance where I have tons of amazing relationships, make everybody happy, avoid all conflict, AND keep all my intense and strong opinions intact and out in the open. NOT GONNA HAPPEN. So, I want to know – how can I stay authentic to myself and my values, have open, honest, loving connection and relationship with people, and, yes, have differing opinions with some of those people too.
You might be wondering why I’m so hung up on this issue of disagreeing within relationships, and I think the answer is two fold.
Firstly, I think it’s because I’ve been making new friends via the internet. I’ve come to value and feel genuinely connected to some of my online friends – but really, I think we may have less in common then we realize. That’s the internet though; we find each other, via the hashtag, and then follow / like people that ‘fit’ into our tribe or share our interests. Which, I am so thankful for, because I love my tribe! But sometimes I wonder, if these people really new me, what would they think? Sure, we like the same ____ or know the same people online or IRL – but what if we met, had coffee and got into the nitty gritty of our lives – what then? Would our shared affinity for Gilmore Girls or yoga or DIYing be enough? Or would our major differences outweigh our minor similarities?
The second reason I’m facing this issue right now: authenticity. Being authentic requires vulnerability, and when we’re learning to be real with ourselves, it can cause conflict in our relationships. I’m grateful to have many different kinds of people in my life, and so as I grow in authenticity, I find myself in the tension of loving some one, while maybe really not loving their opinion on one or more topics. In that tension, there a few things that have helped me not shut down completely or back out of relationships when these hard topics come up and we have a difference of opinion:
- How I feel about someone’s opinion says more about me then it does about them. So, if someone’s opinions or whathaveyou makes me angry and causes me to lash out at them, that really illuminates my own issues or hangups more then theirs. On the positive side, if someones differing opinion causes me to open my mind to other ways of thinking, to meet them where they are at, to practice tolerance and humility, that illuminates my poise, maturity, and emotional health. This is so challenging to me, but it’s helping me learn to evaluate my emotional response to people that I disagree with, and let go of things that don’t serve the relationship or cause me to grow in whatever are we are disagreeing in.
- Giving people room to disagree with me does not weaken my opinion, it’s simply giving people grace on their journey. This is so important to me because I know I have had several paradigm shifts in many areas over the last few years. I can see myself at 15 with many opinions that 26 year old me thinks are ignorant, unhelpful, and straight up wrong, but that’s where I was on my journey. 26 year old me isn’t any better then 15 year old me, she’s just further on her journey. I want to give you that same grace and space that I had, to grow and change and shift over time. It’s ok if we disagree on our individual journeys, but let’s give each other grace, because we are both still journeying.
- And lastly, and most importantly, I’m learning to value people’s character. Maybe you and I can’t see eye to eye on a specific issue, but you’re kind, you’re a good parent or friend, and you show me respect – that’s what really matters, and that’s what helps me see your humanity and not shut down our relationship for fear of our differing opinions. Let me give you a practical example of how I choose to value someones character or humanity over my differing opinion with them.
Let me give you a practical example of how I choose to value someones character or humanity over my differing opinion with them. The current US election: I really don’t like Donald Trump. I don’t like him A LOT. I don’t like what he stands for, I don’t like how he operates as a person or a politician, and I think he’s deeply racist and sexist. HOWEVER, I can’t and shouldn’t assume that EVERY SINGLE PERSON who votes for or supports Donald Trump in the current election is racist and sexist. Even though I don’t like that they’ll vote for him, I can choose to see their character – that they’re good neighbors, friends, and people – instead of focusing on our difference of opinion.
This is also true in smaller issues, like parenting. I have friends, as we all do, who parent differently then I do. But just because my parenting style might differ from yours, doesn’t mean we don’t both value raising healthy, happy, well adjusted kids. So how we do or don’t sleep train isn’t really worth killing each other over, because we really are more similar then we are different.
And that’s true in every area of life.
Maybe I won’t ever find someone who agrees with me in all areas – politics, religion, tv shows, music, parenting, and who Rory should’ve ended up with (Team Jess, for life) – but I can surely find much bigger issues to agree with you on then disagree over. Namely, I am a human that wants to be valued, loved, and bring value and love to my world, and so are you. So let’s keep connecting over Gilmore Girls, yoga, DIYing, and our humanity. And let’s keep talking about the things we don’t agree on, because to shut down that conversation all together would take away from our humanity. And if we get better at disagreeing together, it will only make us grow closer, together.