We are in the midst of a major election year in the United States. Even though we still have three months until Election Day, I can already see the heated communications from people of all walks of life. And the one thing all these conversations have in common is stress. Because of the opposing viewpoints of the candidates and the population in general, discussions can quickly escalate. Friendships can be lost. And family members can pit against each other.
Even when you and other person have opposing viewpoints, you can have a civil conversation that does not involve stress, yelling, or strained relationships. The key is to accept the other person’s point of view.
Realize that accepting the opposing viewpoint does not mean you endorse it or agree with it. It simply means you open your mind enough to listen and accept that another person may view a situation very differently than you. Accepting another person’s viewpoint may be one of the most difficult conversational mindsets, yet it can be the most rewarding for yourself and for the other person.
The tendency in many situations is to become defensive when someone does not agree with us or does not see the world with the same perspective as we do. This, of course, results in stress. However, looking at opposing points of view can be an asset and can actually decrease the stress level of the conversation.
For example, I continually check for understanding with my wife. When I do, I often find that her interpretation on a subject is quite different from mine. I learn by listening to her sometimes opposing viewpoints.
When you take on this listening mindset, you listen without judgment and without thinking of a rebuttal to what the person is saying. You just listen with the mindset of learning. Again, you don’t have to agree with what the person is saying and you don’t have to change your stance on the issue if you don’t see a reason to. But you listen in a way that enables you to challenge your own viewpoint, as that’s the only way to ensure you truly believe what you say you do.
I have discovered through this listening process that my way or my beliefs may be better for me—but not necessarily for others. Each to her/his own. But most important, I find learning others’ viewpoints expands my own, which enables me to continually grow and learn.