How to Deal with People with Opposing Views Online.
We are all looking for connection and want to be understood, so why all the B.. S…?
Last week, a friend of mine posted a screenshot of a tweeter conversation to our WhatsApp group. The conversation played out this way, the author of the post tweeted, ‘I prefer mangoes to oranges,’ and a random person replied with ‘So basically what you are saying is you hate oranges? You also failed to mention pineapples, bananas, and grapefruit. Please educate yourself on other fruits; I’m literally shaking’. This message cracked me up so much that I spilled water all over myself. As the laughter subsided, I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on in this person’s life that someone else’s fruit preference will cause them to ‘literally shake’ and reply with such hostility.
These days, it is almost impossible to post anything online without some random person telling you how you should think, act, and or feel, and if you disagree, then the name-calling ensues. This behavior isn’t limited to any particular group of people; there are culprits from all spectrums that cut across gender, race, culture, religion, politics, occupation, education, and class.
We tend to force our beliefs and opinions on others and often frame it behind morals, values, or awareness — I choose not to use that four-letter word that begins with a ‘W’ and rhymes with ‘Coke.’ I won’t try to go into morals and values because I think that’s an entire article on its own, but I would like to say no matter how right you think you are, there is someone out there with a different version of right.
According to Google, the world’s population is currently at 7.8 billion people, and over 3.8 billion of those people are on social media expressing different experiences and opinions. So despite knowing how diverse we are as people, why do we keep doing this? Why do we feel the need to bully people into believing what we believe? Why do we resort to name-calling and choose to turn a blind eye on any view that’s not inline with ours? Why is it difficult to accept people as they are and meet them there? I won’t even try to answer these questions because the answers are subjective. However, I believe underneath it all; We are all looking for connection, we are all trying to say, ‘This is who I am, please accept me without judgment.’ We all want to be understood and accepted by others despite our differences. So how can we achieve acceptance? How can we get along with people with opposing views? How can we agree to disagree? Now, I can try to answer these questions, but before I do, I will like to add a disclaimer, if your intention online is to spread vitriol and hate; then this isn’t for you.
Understand that People are Different
As stated earlier, the world’s population is currently at 7.8 billion people, and over 3.8 billion of those people are on social media. As you know, your life experiences and how you interpret those experiences and your environment define how you see the world, which drives your beliefs and informs your decisions. Even amongst people with similar views and experiences, there are still differences because everyone interprets an experience differently. If you think about that, that’s a large number of unique perspectives and experiences, so why on earth would you think everyone should subscribe to your way of thinking? Recognize that people are different; not everyone has the same experiences as you do, so not everyone will see things the way you see them.
Going into any conversation with this in mind gives you the ability to have an open mind and become more accepting of others. And, in turn, treat people with respect and kindness.
Argue to Learn and Grow Not to Win
Realize that there is knowledge and power in diversity, and if you have a growth mindset, your intention behind any arguments or debates should be to learn and grow and not to win. Seeing things from a different perspective can provide you with answers to questions you didn’t even realize you were asking. You need people with different experiences and viewpoints in your life to help you grow, and as a couple once said, ‘We don’t argue to win or prove a point, we argue to learn more about each other and grow.’
Seek Understanding By Asking Why
We all want to be understood, but don’t want to understand. Recognize that the person on the other end wants to be understood and accepted just as you do. Give people the benefit of the doubt and seek to understand. It is sometimes impossible to understand the ‘Why’ behind a person’s viewpoint in a limited amount of characters, and as an analyst, I’ve retrained my mind to ask the question kids love to ask the most, Why? It’s astounding how much information you can gather from asking why, including determining the person’s validity and intentions on the other end. You owe it to yourself to take responsibility for your research by asking why rather than replying with a harsh comment or taking what you hear or read at face value.
Be Courageous, Seek Out Opposing Views
There are several definitions and quotes on courage, but I like to think of courage as being willing to seek opposing viewpoints and ideologies. I learned this from a close friend of mine. On the political spectrum, she’s affiliated with the left-wing but watches a lot of conservative news. When I asked why she does this, her reply was, ‘I’m trying to see things from all perspectives.’
When we accept an idealogy regardless of whether it benefits us, We find it hard to willingly entertain opposing views because we treat the ideology as a part of our identity. Any contending viewpoint becomes intolerable because we see an attack on our beliefs as an attack on our identity, and even if Jesus showed up with the facts printed on legal paper, the likelihood of changing your stance would be very doubtful.
If you wonder what the difference between identity and belief is, to put in simple terms, your identity refers to race, gender, date of birth, etc. In comparison, your beliefs are your learned truths or affiliations and references religion, politics, etc. So your faith and political party are your affiliations and not who you are.
It takes courage to seek opposing views and ideologies and even more immense courage to search within and identify when we have blurred the lines between our identity and beliefs.
Life is a process, we live, and we learn, and some go through this process faster than others, which isn’t a good or bad thing; it’s just what it is.
A crucial part of living is accepting others as they are, embracing differences in opinions, and realizing there is strength in diversity. Be kind, be tolerable, be respectful. Open yourself up to possibilities, enlarge your world, learn from other people’s experiences, do your research, take responsibility for your beliefs, and don’t be passive. Be flexible and understand that it is ok to grow out of ideologies that no longer serve you.
The focus should never be the contrasting opinions we hold but should be the ability to share our experiences, collaborate, and grow despite our differences.
The Universe, in its infinite wisdom, knows that a single human will never experience all that life has to offer, and that’s why we have different experiences. The goal here is to share those experiences amongst ourselves. Diversity is not synonymous with division; I believe, instead, it’s the critical requirement for societal growth and advancement.