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How to Tolerate Opinions Without Going Crazy

“What?” “Why?” and “How?” are three of my favorite words. My instinct has always been to peer behind the proverbial curtain to get a closer look. I want to KNOW about things. And sometimes knowing about things also means understanding the flip side of them.

Take, for instance, my favorite Anais Nin quote: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” I was toast as soon as I read it. My wheels of curiosity churned as I decided to explore this concept. As a result, I have been able to successfully manage some very interesting interactions. I have heard opinions that could be considered racist, sexist, politically charged or laced with anger.

If I feel vulnerable or compromised when someone says something I consider mean or hurtful towards another person or group of people, I can hear in my mind, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” And I am grateful for the immediate detachment and relief.

I enjoy catching myself when I feel offended. Who am I to refute what someone believes, especially since it is their divine right to have an opinion? Why should I demand that someone change their mind (which isn’t going to happen anyway) so that I feel better? After all, I don’t have to agree but I believe it is important to remain respectful, especially if I myself seek respect.

Whenever you find your blood starting to boil while listening to someone else’s opinion, save your breath because you will not change their mind. Try to look underneath their words. You might notice that they are actually saying, “because of x, y or z, I feel threatened. I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel important. I don’t feel like I count. And I want to count. I want to matter.” This is something we all share.

Ask yourself, “Why does this person feel unsafe or insecure?” This can shift the energy of the conversation for you. You can become inquisitive rather than defensive. You might also notice that people who feel safe and secure rarely finger point.

Once we practice digging for hidden gems of insight with respect to each other, we can find common ground. When we do, not only can we mend the fences between us, perhaps we can bridge our hearts and minds with ease and joy.

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