One of the most critical mistakes people make when engaging in a discussion occurs upon discovering that theother party has opposing views. They begin debating an issue only to find that each sees things very differently.One believes that a vegan diet is a healthier lifestyle choice. The other is a traditional meat and potatoes connoisseur. As the conversation progresses, tensions elevate.
Both parties are convinced their belief is correct – and since there can only be one right way, the other becomes wrong by default. Both are willing to expend a significant amount of time and energy in proving their positions, even going so far as to present documentation validating their beliefs. Some may produce a host of supporters who share in their position, thereby further arguing that numbers don’t lie. The one with the largest group of followers wins, right?
Person number one prepares to counter with research outweighing the other’s. Person number two desperately tries to enlighten the other to the fact that his or herresources are not nearly as current or respected. The reply is that veganism hasn’t been practiced long enough for any conclusive proof of its health benefits.
Both parties, staunch in their beliefs, continue their quest to prove their truth, thereby putting the other on the defensive. Not many feel comfortable in being proven wrong, so both hold steadfast to their positions, determined more than ever not to be humiliated by appearing ignorant and misinformed. Sound familiar?
This is a no-win situation. Instead of the two agreeing to share their personal views in an arena of mutual respect, insecurity takes the rein. The discussion of a neutral topic becomes a battle of egos. Both parties, wanting to maintain their dignity, argue their point until exhaustion, refusing to relinquish to the other. Tempers flare, and what began as an opportunity to learn quickly plummets into an ugly assault upon one another.
Somewhere in our history, we were taught to believe that differences of opinion automatically constitute issues of right or wrong. In truth, most of what we argue about has little or anything to do with being correct or misinformed. With the exception of verifiable facts or issues of morality,most of our disagreements simply reflect our beliefs, opinions, perceptions, and preferences. Each of those issubject to change at any given time, whereas facts and moral issues maintain their validity for eternity.
Those who are confident and sensitive are comfortablewith others maintaining their personal beliefs and practices while simultaneously holding firm to their own. In order to have meaningful discussions where all parties are free to explore new ideas, each of us needs to recognize the validity of the other party’s position and agree to respect it. Therefore, when disagreements arise, avoid using the terms “right” and “wrong.” Always be gracious in allowing all parties to maintain their personal convictions and dignity. In the end, you will earn their respect – and that far outweighs being “right.”