, , , , , ,

opinions are for the brave.

I receive fairly regular texts (I’d say one every other week or so) from a fellow mom and church-going Christian who believes I congregate with the wrong sort. Quite passionately, though not without love, she has attempted to win me over to her side of the grass – her way of seeing things. This isn’t the first time I’ve found myself in someone’s persuasive crosshairs. I tend to find myself a sort of magnet for such folks, eagerly seeking to convert greater numbers to their faith, parenting style, political perspective, and such. It only occurred to me recently why this is so.

I grew up at an interesting intersection of culture and faith. At this crossroads, girls were mostly socialized to be polite and accommodating. Expressing disagreement or dissonant opinions was seen as overly aggressive. Unpleasant. Or maybe I just noticed that the girls who did so weren’t usually widely liked – at least, not by me. So, I made the choice to become “agreeable.” Wherever anyone wanted to take me in conversation, I’d go right along willingly. Showing interest in other people’s interests wins friends. Arguing with someone’s beliefs felt disrespectful. I neglected to realize that you can show interest and challenge the ideas being presented while being respectful. These concepts aren’t mutually exclusive.

In order to manage all three, it helps to see it done well. The problem is, not many people can do this well. I know I sure can’t (and I have an advanced degree in conflict resolution). I suppose that leaves only one other way to master this: PRACTICE. If you’re not accustomed to sharing your honest opinions (especially when they challenge someone else’s views), it’s going to feel uncomfortable. You may feel like you’re disappointing people, being argumentative, or you may even come off as an asshole.

It may be helpful to offer a disclaimer to folks. Something like, “Hey, I’m new at this whole ‘expressing your opinions’ thing, so if my tone or approach is off-putting, I hope you’ll let me know.” Keep in mind that some people just plain won’t like any sort of dissenting opinion, no matter how friendly the approach. Don’t give up. The ability to handle dissenting opinions is also something to be perfected through practice. But it’s important to keep trying, because if you never let people know what you honestly think about things, they’ll never know you. And it’s lonely, not being really known. You come across as a sort of two-dimensional hologram on which everyone else can project their opinions.

You also put yourself in a position to never be challenged on what you think about things, and people who never brush up against anybody different are often the most difficult types of people. This world does not need more of those people. It needs the sort that can exchange opinions or ideas without collapsing on themselves or exploding onto others. You earn that the hard way: through practice. Then, you can model it for others and be part of creating a shift in the system. Imagine that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s