It is likely that sometime in the past week, you have engaged in a conversation with someone and found that you each had very different views on a topic – you disagreed.
What did you do then? How did you feel?
Depending on the nature of the relationship and how committed you were to your beliefs about the subject, it is likely you worked hard to convince the other person that your way of thinking was ‘correct’. And I bet that the longer you tried to persuade your discussion companion to come around to your way of seeing things, the more amped up your emotions got.
Why does this happen? What does it matter if someone else has a different point of view?
The path to forming an opinion or belief is filled with real life experiences that shape our view of the world. Unfortunately, the ‘conclusions’ that we arrive at are regularly associated with a story that we have created in our minds about why or how something happened (and when it comes to strongly held beliefs, there is often a ‘who is to blame’ component too). This story is the best we could come up with, considering the information we had at the time. Problems arise for us though when we don’t update our data – when we neglect to be curious and question if maybe there is more to it than we originally thought.
We are reluctant to question our opinions because it’s easier to cling tightly to them than it is to do the hard work of revisiting the premise underlying them.
But what is at risk when we refuse to relook at the story behind the belief? Two things come to mind. First, we limit our own growth and potential for a more expansive, enjoyable engagement with the world. And second, it’s difficult to find common ground with others when the only person we’re focused on is ourself, and our way of seeing things.
Maybe the next time you find your blood pressure rising, or whatever it is that happens to you when you are having a disagreement with someone, use it as an opportunity to shift your attention away from how right you are and instead ask yourself, “What might I be missing here?”. Provide yourself with some space to learn, and see what happens.