Reality Check: A Real Gift

Gift-giving is top of mind for many people at this time of year. While the unusual circumstances of the last two years may have changed some perspectives about what is important, gift purchases are still common. We buy products or services to show that we care.
The past few years have also brought disputes for some people. I know that we will always have conflicts, but it seems to me that some conflicts have taken on a sharper edge since the pandemic. (Please let me know if you think that I am mistaken.) There are disputes over real science vs. mistaken science, over safety, over freedom, and especially over, “Where is this all leading us?”
At this time when many wish for peace, celebration, and togetherness, activities are overshadowed by concerns about who can associate with whom, what behaviours are responsible vs. irresponsible, whether people should get together at all, and so on.
I have no answers to those questions. But I will offer a suggestion about what to give the person with whom you have a disagreement. Try giving respect.
Each one of us has our unique past, present and future. We have not all had the same experiences, we do not hold the same beliefs, we have different concerns as well as different wants. With all that, it’s hardly a surprise that we would have disagreements!
However, when we disagree, each of us can make a choice. Even—or especially—when we believe the other to be mistaken, we can choose to treat them either with respect or with disdain. We can disagree without condescension. We can set examples and do what we believe to be right without coercing others into doing the same.
If you do choose to get into a discussion of a disputed issue, how might you do so respectfully?
One way is to ask whether the other person wants to hear your point of view. For example, “Would you like to hear how I am looking at this? Would you like to know why I have chosen to do what I’ve done?”
If the person says “OK” then you have an opportunity to state your case. There’s no guarantee that you will be heard, but as I’ve said in other columns, we never really know what influence we have.
On the other hand, if the person says no, then you have your answer. You may as well stop. To continue will only poison the relationship (if it’s not already). You are not going to be heard, and a conversation/rant will likely result in frustration for everyone within hearing distance. Save your words for someone who wants to hear them.
If you want to be truly respectful, you could ask, “Would you help me understand why you believe what you believe?” No argument is required. Just listen. Who knows? If they choose to help you understand, you will certainly learn something.
We come to our opinions through many routes. While it may be hard to believe, it’s possible that your beliefs (or mine) may look quite irrational to someone who has a different understanding. However, we can still be respectful of each other even when we disagree.
Do other people’s beliefs cause distress or conflict for you? Could mutual respect help?

This entry was posted in Relationships and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.