Disagreements can be hard and sometimes scary.
We may find ourselves feeling isolated, hurt, misunderstood, or altogether dismissed.
In such a polarizing, political culture, it can seem daunting to know where safety and security may be found.
I am here to encourage you: it is possible!
I recently moved back to Mississippi after living in Virginia for five years. Let me tell you, never have I ever felt so silenced and isolated regarding my values and beliefs in both locations.
During my stint in Virginia, I often felt silenced because I leaned toward more, conservative viewpoints in comparison to those around me.
However, since moving home to the good ole ‘bible belt’ of Mississippi, I feel far too liberal to speak my mind without receiving ridicule or being dismissed with a not-so-affectionate eye roll.
For the last five to ten years, I have found myself in what feels like a discouraging, lose-lose situation. In my anxious silence, I wondered and feared, ‘Will anyone listen to me? Will I be heard? Will I get made fun of or be disrespected? Will anyone care?’
As I have processed these experiences, I am learning many of us have these fears and insecurities.
With the skills I have learned and developed in the counseling profession, we hope to help you, in practical ways, find connection, security, and even safety amidst the murky waters of disagreements.
What We Seek
Why are disagreements so hard?
We are sharing something important to us to with another person; there is an element of exposure. This makes us vulnerable and susceptible to rejection.
Often in the face of rejection, we seek belonging, connection, and being known. We want to find a place where we belong and have common ground with others.
We want to connect with those around us. When encountering someone who opposes issues of value and importance to us, it can feel like a dismissal of who we are; what makes you, you.
Lastly, we find ourselves wanting to be known. When disagreeing with others, it can feel as though we are misunderstood. This can cause feelings of isolation and loneliness. Naturally, we tend to shut down or be defensive in efforts to protect ourselves.
How We Find it
So how do we find things like safety and security amidst disagreeing with others? I have one word for you here:
In my both my personal and counseling experience, the common phrase ‘easier said than done’ comes to mind in relation to the concept of listening. However, I encourage you to view listening as an avenue through which belonging and connection can be achieved.
In counseling, we often use the term ‘active listening.’ This indicates a progressive posture to listening as oppose to a passive one. We often enter conversations waiting for our turn to speak, picking apart what others are saying, or being internally distracted by our own thoughts and opinions.
When you find yourself in a disagreement, consider taking a moment to truly listen.
Listen actively by acknowledging feelings communicated, make eye contact, summarize and paraphrase what the other is saying. Lay down judgment and seek to understand before being understood.
Make a Choice
Choose people not beliefs.
It can be easy to get caught up in being right over being human. (Trust me, I have been there!)
Yet, I have found the pursuit of “winning” a conversation inevitably prevents connection and increases isolation. Ask yourself, ‘What do I have in common with those I fundamentally disagree with?’
Your answer: human dignity. If we choose to honor the inherent dignity of humanness in one another, we find sameness; we find connection.