want to be more tolerate of different opinions, want to be calmer and more realitstic
May 23, 2012 6:14 PM   Subscribe

how to you embrace different or opposite opinions from yours, instead of being offended or upset or pressured by it?

I want to improve myself in this aspect. In the logic part of my brain, I know that different people have different opinions, different from mine. Sometimes, I am right, sometimes, the others are right. Sometimes, there's no right or wrong. But the emotion part of my brain often get upset by people doing things differently from mine. I am especially sensitive to my parent's opinion and get very mad with them, thinking they are pressuring me to do things their way. But actually, that's not the truth. They intended well, they don't think they are pressuring me. So I guess somehow I can't think straight on this. Do you have suggestions to me? This is a roadblock in my life right now, I would be very happy if I can figure this out. Thanks
posted by akomom to Human Relations (8 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Sometimes, I am right, sometimes, the others are right. Sometimes, there's no right or wrong.

Start with this. Some things are assertions ("It is 72 degrees in here".) Other things are assessments ("That is too hot, we should turn on the AC"). Assertions can be tested, so there is no reason anyone needs to be offended or upset about them, just find out.

That leaves assessments (opinions). The key here is to get out of thinking of them as right and wrong. It may be that some are more useful and others are less useful or destructive, but that isn't quite the same. So, start listening to it as "I have assessment A. You see things a different way and have assessment B."

The next step is the key. Stop and remind yourself that while you have experiences and knowledge that lead you to one assessment, the other person likewise has experiences and knowledge that lead them to a differing story. Then you can de-escalate the tension with an offer "I see things differently than you do on this. Would you be willing to talk about why we each have our point of view, and maybe we'll find a new solution that we both agree with?"

In all of this you don't need to let go of whatever core principles you hold, but by recognizing that the opinions are each individuals personal story that explains a situation, you can start strengthening the ability to bridge that and continue conversations to create shared stories.

A second strategy is even more direct. When you feel yourself in this mode, simply articulate it. "I know you are offering this opinion to try to help me. But, when I hear it, I just end up feeling you like are trying to pressure me to do things your way. I'm really committed to making a good decision, but it doesn't help me to feel like that. Can we slow down so I really understand what you mean?" That move is called having a conversation about the conversation, and when you can pull it off it really helps get over these roadblocks.
posted by meinvt at 6:32 PM on May 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

I agree with meinvt, especially since you specifically mention your parents.

But if you were asking about being more tolerant of people in general, I would just caution that there really are some people whose views and interactions with others are dangerous or reckless. Dishonesty, violence, addiction and mental illness do exist, and I do not believe we are under any obligation to be tolerant of absolutely everyone's opinions. Even discounting those extremes, in an office or academic environment there will be people whose interests are opposed to yours, and they will have no interest in laying their cards on the table since they see you as a competitor for scarce resources, even if they hold no specific grudge against you.
posted by forthright at 7:12 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

To respond strictly to the family part of your question:

How do you emotionally feel when you notice that there are differences between yourself and your parents? Do you feel like you have your emotional guard up? Do you feel threatened?

I ask these questions because as a teen, I used to get very defensive whenever family members would express a difference of opinion, discuss a traditional way of living, or mention anything conservative.

I felt like my sense of self was threatened because I could never fit into their expectations. So, I tried to argue and prove that they were wrong. But, this only added fuel to the fire which made my family and I argue narrowly about how our perspective was the right way.

Over time, I realized that this was an ineffective way to react to our differences. I started saying things like "to each their own" or "what may be right for me, may not be right for you" which helped me get my point across that I was in control of my own life and had no interest in doing things their way.

It takes practice and sometimes, I still feel confined by my family's expectations and differences. But, you are an adult-you call the shots and you determine what works or doesn't work for you.

Once you change your mentality and perspective on the notion of differences, then it will help you realize that differences can be a good thing. Differences help us develop a better understanding of ourselves and others. Differences help prevent us from living in a box where only our way is right. You seem like you have a great start so far by saying "I know that different people have different opinions, different from mine. Sometimes, I am right, sometimes, the others are right. Sometimes, there's no right or wrong." But, adding onto that-what may be right for you may not be right for others. And, what may be right for others may not be right for you.

Work on becoming more open-minded. Learn to respond rather than react. When someone expresses a difference of opinion, ask them why they think or feel this way. Develop a better understanding of the person even if you don't agree with their perspective. If you can't have conversations about certain topics, then state that you do not want to talk about these matters. Try to view things in a more holistic way so that you can accept someone rather than struggling to tolerate someone because they don't fit into your way of life.
posted by livinglearning at 7:21 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

"They intended well, they don't think they are pressuring me."

Emphasis mine.

Is it possible your parents are actually pressuring you??

Often, we fall into these weird dynamics during childhood, and transitioning into adulthood for both parents and offspring is, uh, an awkward transition.

I'm not sure that knowledge changes any fundamental techniques you might employ to dial-down your emotionality about opinions different from yours, but I think it OK to acknowledge when someone is even subtly, and without direct intention, pressuring you inappropriately. It's OK to name a dynamic or situation for what it objectively is, maybe even healthiest!

Food for thought.
posted by jbenben at 7:55 PM on May 23, 2012

Response by poster: jbenben, thanks for your point. You are right, my parents are pressuring me unintentionally. They think pointing things out that can be improved is not pressuring me. But on my end of receiving their comment, I amplify the comment and take it as a pressure on me to do things better. Naming the dynamic, having a better understanding of what's going on or the pattern is helpful.
livinglearning, thanks for sharing your experience. I do feel that I can never fit their expectations and get frustrated for them always expecting sth from me.
My issue is that I know that trying to convince other people of what I think is right is often a waste of time. It drains my energy, makes me upset and has almost no good effect. However, I still do it often, hard for me to change my emotion auto-piloted reaction.
thx everyone. hope to hear more.
posted by akomom at 9:42 PM on May 23, 2012

I'm assuming here that it's not a super-clear issue, or you wouldn't be trying to be tolerant. (I believe there are opinions not worth being tolerant of). I'm assuming here that it's opinions about the world in general, not their opinions about what you should be doing with your life. (I believe that if your parents are telling you that med school is what all children who truly love their parents do, avoidance isn't going to work).
I'm imagining a situation hearing them making statements about the world that you disagree with ("I just don't see why the government does X, it's clear as day that's only making problem Y worse", when you're a big fan of X and want to go work on an X volunteer campaign.). That's when yes, you can work on not letting them pick fights with you. You can work on seeing that there's a big picture, and X is neither right nor wrong, just an imperfect solution to a complicated problem; and if you believe it's the most viable imperfect solution and worth putting your time into, and they'd rather sit in their armchairs and mope about how imperfect it is, fine. The key would be to know how you really feel about something, and keep in touch with that. Don't be swayed into agreeing just because you want to respect your parents, and don't be swayed into arguing just because you feel bullied. I'm encouraging a very neutral response, keeping your beliefs in mind, but temporarily set aside. You are a superhero The Peacekeeper and you're protecting [what you really think] as your super-secret identity.

Work on your ability to listen without agreeing. In conversation, we often nod and say "...yeah..." and "mmhmm" as we're listening to someone talk - encouraging positive noises. Then when we're presented with someone saying something "wrong", it's hard to say anything without interjecting an argument - I'm not going to nod and say yeah, so I'd better say no! Work on your vocabulary of neutral filler. "ah" "mmmm." "I see" "I'd heard that".
Wait for them to say their piece, and then decide what you want to have happen next. Do you want to tell them that you disagree, or do you want to just let that be your super-spy secret identity? If you decide you don't want to argue with them, it's important not to give them an opening to start arguing with you. You could give a neutral response, like "yeah, it's a really complicated issue", but following with "I don't think your point A really stands up in context B" is inviting a discussion - it's almost impossible to tell someone why you disagree without their taking it as an invitation to further expound on those particular points, so be aware what you're starting. If you don't want to discuss you're better off picking a point that you do mostly agree with "Yeah, initiative X was kind of a failure; I wish there were a better solution than X."

Actions speak louder than words, and more calmly. Know what you believe, and DO what follows from that. Don't get led into talks about ideology (how all people A should do action B in situation C) but be prepared to talk specifics - why were your particular actions the absolute best thing for you in the situation.
posted by aimedwander at 7:20 AM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with livinglearning and often take a similiar tactic...stating "agree to disagree" when there is a wide chasm between opinions.

I think the situation depends on whether this is opinion on an issue, or if this is opinion on your life/behavior, or so on and so forth.
For social issues, I grew up very liberal in a conservative area and reacted defensively when social issues were debated. Eventually, I learned to listen respectfully, to require that others listen to me respectfully to engage with them, and to be okay when almost always there was no agreement at the end. Then it was "agree to disagree" and "it isn't lovely that we can be civilized and really hear each other" type thing. I realized I could not change other's minds when it came to huge social issues in one conversation but that if I stayed calm I could have intellectual conversations that would more effectively chip away at learned bigotry. (think LGBTQ eqaulity, capital punishment, racial issues). This does not mean I take bigotry lightly. I usually am furious and upset on the inside but strong opinions do not change immediately and getting defensive and angry just escalates the situation. I didn't want to win the argument, I wanted to change minds.

Well, I try anyway. Sometimes I get mad as hell. But I changed less minds that way.

If the different opinion is based on your life, your actions or your behaviors, then initially I would say something like "Thanks for caring about me. I'm going to do XYZ anyway but I appreciate it your concern." And the second time, I would say "Again, thanks. I have thought this out and I'm comfortable with my decision." And then after that, any further differing opinions from the folks (or other loved ones )would receive a response along the lines of "You've made your thoughts clear on this matter. I know where you stand. I need you respect that this is my life and I'm going to make my own decisions. I respect that you make your own decisions in your life and I require the same in return. I won't be discussing it further with you as it is my decision. Let's move on" And that's it. You don't' have to plead for the approval because you don't need it.
Good luck!
posted by Kitty Cornered at 12:29 PM on May 24, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the new input here. To "work on my ability to listen without agreeing" and "don't have to plead for the approval because I don't need it". These are exact points I need to work on. To look at the big picture, to focus on my own action and to improve my own decision making skills are the way to go.
I also appreciate the input on situations where the other party's opinion should not be tolerated since there's something disruptive in those sayings. But that's a separate issue from the things I want to improve on like interacting with my parents.
posted by akomom at 3:27 PM on May 24, 2012

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