People have an abundant supply of opinions, some of which you will agree with and others you will not. It’s helpful to come across statements you don’t agree with, however, as this can facilitate healthy intellectual growth if you allow it, notes lawyer, author and mother Dionna Ford, creator of the website CodeNameMama.com. As opposed to categorizing opposing viewpoints as a nuisance, look at them as opportunities to strengthen your critical thinking and communication skills.
When you come hear a statement that you don’t agree with, take time to acknowledge the fact that you understand the other person’s point of view. This allows you to show the other person you are listening to and understand their perspective. Validating another viewpoint also allows you to strengthen the content within your response by weighing both sides of the argument. Be sure to remain calm when rehashing the opposing viewpoint, too, recommends psychotherapist and personal development coach Gladeana McMahon. Keeping a calm disposition allows you to engage in a mature conversation without it turning into a shouting or name-calling match.
Once you have demonstrated to the person in which you are engaging in a discussion that you understand his perspective, present your position on the subject. If you are talking about whether or not schools should allow prayer – and you believe it should not be – state your position and give a substantive reason as to why you hold this perspective. Provide facts to support your argument, such as a recollection of sound bites from an interview you once heard, or credible information you can cite from the Internet. Circular arguments, such as “I don’t think prayer should be allowed in schools because I just don’t agree with it,” don't explain why you hold the position. This makes engaging in meaningful dialogue challenging for the other person.
Whether you are engaging in a debate or discussion with a coworker, romantic partner or someone on the Internet, effective communication skills are essential when responding to a statement you do not agree with. In face-to-face discussions, use active listening skills, such as eye contact and attentive, non-verbal cues. This shows someone that you are engaged in the conversation. Whether face-to-face or online, it’s never mature or useful to resort to name-calling simply because someone doesn’t agree with you. Remember, you are bound to encounter differing viewpoints in life, but treat these encounters as opportunities for intellectual growth rather than excuses to spew hatred toward another person. If you think you are too angry to respond maturely or appropriately to an opposing viewpoint, refrain from responding at all until a time when you can express your views calmly and productively.
Sometimes, after someone has made a statement and you have intelligently expressed your reasons for not agreeing with their statement, you and the other party still arrive at a point of disagreement – and this is fine. Not only will you meet opposing viewpoints in life, but repeated attempts to get others to see things your way may prove unsuccessful. Regardless of whether or not you and either your friend, spouse or coworker can agree on an issue, it’s important and healthy to maintain respect for others’ differences. People come from different walks of life, different families and have different beliefs that inform their perspectives, so learn to respect these differences and move on.
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