Respecting other people’s opinion Image
We’re all unique and each and every one of us have gone through different experiences in our lives. Through this natural and learnt individuality, it’s only logical that we form opinions that are different from someone else’s.

These differences in opinion can be minor and insignificant, like what films we prefer or what we would rather eat (or not eat). But, sometimes, the polarities can be over bigger issues, like political allegiances, religious beliefs, or trust in modern medicine.

Although there’s probably been hotly contested arguments about whether Forrest Gump or The Shawshank Redemption should have won the 1995 Oscar for best film, it’s easier to set aside agreement on the quality of a movie than it is something more existential.

In the current cultural climate, one of the biggest divergents has been whether or not to take the Covid-19 vaccine. Uptake has been high in Australia, but vaccine hesitancy still persists, causing heated debates and even full-blown arguments between those who feel strongly either way.

While these conversations are largely held between family members, friends, strangers on social media and perhaps people at the bar after a few drinks, they may also manifest in an office environment as more people head back to the workplace.

Important things to remember when talking to someone who has a differing opinion

Regardless of location, who you’re talking to, or what about, when you’re engaged in a dialogue around diverging thinking it’s important to show respect to the other person.

How can we do this? Well, try to take on board the following six points:

  1. Don’t become aggressive or hostile.
  2. See it as an opportunity to understand another point of view and grow as a person.
  3. Really listen to the other person.
  4. Remember that you don’t have to ‘win’, nor do you have to concede defeat.
  5. Understand that all people are different and come from different backgrounds and cultural experiences.
  6. Do not insult the other person’s intelligence.

By not adhering to any of these suggestions, the conversation will likely become heated, hostile and ultimately pointless. For example, if you suggest the other person in the discussion is stupid for holding their opinion, they will feel insulted and will become far less likely to to listen to – let alone accept – your point of view — conversation over!

Try to understand that people usually aren’t disagreeing with your opinion simply to infuriate you. Just like you, the other person will believe they have valid reasons to hold their point of view.

If you are locked in a conversation where the other person holds a different opinion than you, here are some further Do’s and Don’ts that can help you hold a civil and productive conversation on a disputed topic.

  • Ask questions like: “That’s interesting. Why do you feel that way?”
  • Make it clear you want to understand their side of things.
  • Truly listen to their response.
  • Remain calm at all times.
  • Use objective facts instead of emotions or subjective opinions.
  • Search for the middle ground – although you may disagree, there are usually parts of the topic you can agree on.
  • Peacefully disagree on the aspects you don’t agree with – full agreement on something is not usually a prerequisite to being friends/co-workers.
  • Be willing to walk away if the other person becomes hostile – when this happens, a resolution is unlikely to be reached.
  • Use terms like “You’re wrong”.
  • Get aggressive or passive aggressive, as this accomplishes nothing.
  • Be closed-minded as you’ll miss the chance to potentially learn something.
  • Feel like you need to win the argument.
  • Be afraid of mild conflict.
  • Impose your opinion on them – you’re simply having a dialogue.
  • Become upset if they don’t understand your point of view.

Whatever the disagreement, remember that, ultimately, these conversations are a great opportunity to collaborate, educate and grow. Having differences in opinion is what makes us all individuals — and individuality should be celebrated, not met with hostility and anger.