Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like more people are having a harder time dealing with other people who disagree with them than ever before. People are increasingly set in their ways, unwilling to listen to anyone else’s opinion, and more easily offended by anyone who doesn’t share their opinion.
I’ve experienced this both personally with people I know about everyday life situations, and I see it in social media, in the news, and particularly with this presidential race. I’ve touched on this topic before in a post called “Being Open-Minded” where I talk about not being judgmental, giving people the benefit of the doubt, and not being so set in our ways and how we view the world around us. It is very difficult to communicate with people who are judgmental, who don’t give people the benefit of the doubt, and who get upset if someone doesn’t view something the same way they do. Everything has to be worded so carefully and said just at the right time or it’s likely to evoke a negative response. And it’s frustrating having my intentions questioned when all I am doing is trying to help. Both can be very mentally draining at times.
People should be allowed to express their opinions as long as it is not being done in a way that is threatening or harmful. I’m all for being respectful of others and feeling safe in my environment, but it seems to me that some people are so easily threatened or offended by anyone who doesn’t think the exact same way they do. When I see political signs on my neighbors’ yards that are for candidates I wouldn’t support, I don’t feel the need to petition the neighborhood association to prevent them from displaying the signs or sue my neighbors who displayed the signs because I am offended. I simply keep driving or walking and ignore them. I would want the same opportunity to display signs for whomever I support, should I choose to do that. I am being hypothetical here, but it seems to me that things along these lines are happening more and more frequently.
And then there are the reactions that involve violence. Is it really necessary to punch someone or threaten to do physical harm if someone doesn’t support the same political candidate as you? And when did it become acceptable to punch a teacher or other authority figure who asks you to follow the rules and not use your cell phone during class? That’s just ridiculous. Then there are the vast number of people who feel the need to jab back, whenever they have been punched first, either literally or figuratively. What happened to taking the high road?
Sometimes the less others are willing to listen to our point of view, the more we cling to the idea, the more extreme it gets in our heads, the more defensive we get about our position, the more we want to express it, and the more divided we become. Is it really necessary to “unfriend” anyone who doesn’t route for the same sports team or political candidate as you? If we only want to surround ourselves with people who are exactly like us, we might be missing out on perspectives we hadn’t considered yet, some good discussions, and a chance to experience things we might not otherwise.
I suppose the one exception that comes to mind is when people I know support a political candidate or sports figure or other famous person who does not have good character or integrity, does not hesitate to belittle others, is quick to react inappropriately to anything negative said about them, and/or who has very close-minded views that they don’t hesitate to express in a negative way. It does make me question the character of the person I know when they think that kind of behavior is completely acceptable. That’s different than just having opposing views on issues or routing for different teams, but it still wouldn’t make me want to eliminate them from my life or friend list.
Instead of feeling threatened by different opinions, we should try to embrace at least some of them because we may learn something, we may realize we didn’t know everything and that maybe we were wrong, and we may even grow as a person in the process. In many instances, we are not going to change our minds, but we should just agree to disagree and not fight tooth an nail to get others to see our point of view and/or cut them out of our lives if they don’t. A little more tolerance and patience is definitely in order, not to mention being willing to listen to others instead of thinking that we are always right about everything all the time.
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