We go down vastly different paths in life; our choices are our choices and they are not necessarily wrong but just different. We all have a unique set of life experiences that prompt us to think and perceive things in a certain way. In fact, the aspect of human cognition is that we see the world through our own eyes. However, the downside is that we have lost the ability to balance our thoughts with the thoughts of others. We have eventually developed a mentality of “I am right and only people who agree with me are right”.
Some of us were raised to believe that we need other people to agree with us in order to feel better. We then align with people who think the same way as us for a sense of belonging. The greater society around us has also taught us that if we disagree with others and behave rudely towards them, our associates will still follow us. It is natural to fail to understand others’ point of views, because we can never know why they think the way they do. What is inappropriate is to assume that they are simply wrong and become disrespectful towards them.
There is now a huge need to validate ourselves than ever before, especially in pressing issues such as political and religious viewpoints. It has even gotten worse on social media. A place that was once used to catch up with old friends and making new ones has become a battleground. We now seek to win an argument when we encounter someone who has a different opinion from ours. This imbalance is a result of poor awareness and less time for self-introspection. It is not the most productive approach to take when someone disagrees with us. It is an indication that we do not have much self-confidence in our opinions. The outcomes are problematic because they cause strains in any kind of relationships. It causes stalking, harassment and ridicule when we cannot handle opinions that are different from our own. We should bear in mind that good relations are bigger than opinions.
Simple awareness is needed. It starts by acknowledging that it is possible to show respect without showing support. We should normalise encouraging dialogues and not hostility. Let us learn to engage in respectful conversations and disagree about certain topics without battling against particular individuals. It is important to establish protocols of agreements without being resentful. Everybody has an opinion no matter where they come from, and they shall have the right to be respected and valued for their opinion. We should make room for disagreements and invite feedback. It requires self-control, sensitivity and tolerance.
We never grow and evolve by arguing with others; we grow by gaining new insight and opinions. Life is abstract and there is more than a single view to interpret what is going on around us. We should therefore use the opinions of others to our advantage to learn some new perspectives. Let us appreciate diversity. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and we have to respect it.
If we want to be heard, we have to respect other people’s opinions first.
*Saara Meke Amakali is an industrial psychology and sociology graduate.