Pick a fight with me.
This past week a guest lecturer whom is now a lawyer came into one of my classes. He used to be a professor and told us that one time, he was invited to speak to a class, similar to what he had done for my class. He said that after he spoke for 50 minutes, he was nervous. No judge or prosecutor had tried to refute what he was saying. He wanted them to push back.
Though I detest when people say “people these days can’t do ___ anymore,” I’m going to say it. Well, before my generation, the practice of civil disagreement ceased to exist.
Two of my best friends use the phrase “no offense” before they offer up anything that is contrary or slightly unfavorable to hear. Why should I be offended? Saying that you’re going to start studying and I need to be respectfully quiet, isn’t offensive. Saying that you don’t like my favorite color purple, isn’t offensive.
People should be able to express themselves in respectful ways without offending others. This takes two parts.
First, the speaker needs to be respectful.
Second, the listener needs to be receptive.
PLEASE NOTE: I did not say that the speaker should be able to say ANYTHING. I’m not handing out the right to say anything with the idea that the listener is at fault for being offended. Political correctness was something designed to be sensitive to others, which should be happening in a conversation, and even in a disagreement.
Don’t agree? Have a conversation with someone about it. I was talking to a priest that was telling me that he had no issue with homosexual civil union, “just don’t call it a marriage.”
I am extremely passionate about this topic and it’s sometimes hard for me to understand why people oppose it. So we talked. At the end of the discussion, I had raised points that he had never thought of, and he calmly explained things that I had never heard before. Because the conversation wasn’t hostile, I had time to process and appreciate the things he said. I still disagree, but I have a new perspective, and so does he.
On another note, I also have one friend that is always convinced she’s right. It does not matter what the subject is, she’s "right". Entering into a conversation with someone that does not have their mind open or receptive to new ideas is an uphill battle that you will not win.
I once heard someone say that it’s not bad to be close minded because “you have grabbed onto something worth holding on to.” It’s perfectly fine to grasp an idea and hold it firmly with you, but you need to have the ability to entertain and explore other ideas.
Suppose ideas and understandings of the world are like beads. “Dogs are good creatures” is a bead. “Family comes first” is a bead, and “X is the true religion” is another bead. You can hold all these beads in your hand, but you may not be able to examine other beads to decide if you like them or not.
You can string all the beads you have together and put them on a bracelet, keeping them always before you, and then you can look at other beads, or ideas, with your free hands. Just because you look at other beads and consider them doesn’t mean you have to throw away your bracelet. Maybe you add or take off beads, or maybe you don’t. Just keep free hands and space for new beads and ideas.
When you’re talking to someone and you vehemently disagree with them, you may be upset that they disagree with you. They may feel the same way about you. Devaluing their opinions or beliefs will not change their opinions because they will be hurt or angry, and therefore, not receptive. But, if you talk calmly and politely, you can actually gain insight.
Also, if you are upset every time someone disagrees with you, you’re doing just as poorly as the person screaming about how your beliefs are wrong.
Ifpeople don’t push back or challenge you, how will you grow?
If someone challenges what you say or do, be grateful that someone showed you how to improve. If you tell someone that the sky is blue, and they say it isn’t, ask why. If they say you’re dead wrong, telling them that they’re crazy ends your civil discussion. Ask them why you’re wrong or why they’re right. They may surprise you, or maybe you’ll just have a new understanding of why you believe what you do.
Civil disagreements are very possible, but still very rare. In short, enter conversations with a level of respect, even if you believe the other person is dead wrong. Assume they know something that you don’t, or that you’re just on different pages. Getting mad and getting offended won’t fix things. It’s ok to be both, but realize if you’re in a disagreement, there is a breakdown between you and the other person. You’re looking to find and fix the problem, not create more problems or make them worse.