Let’s face it: humans suck at disagreeing. Not just around politics or religion, but lifestyles and other personal choices as well.
Given the amazing brains we have, we could do a lot better and contribute to this world being a more kind and compassionate place if we practice disagreeing in a healthy way that still feels authentic.
I remember when someone had posted a comment on a social media post I made and she said, “Please unfriend me. We obviously have different beliefs.”
This really stood out to me because I thought it was so… immature to not want to see differing opinions. It wasn’t like I was on a rant or being disrespectful either. Just sharing a story about how my opinion was informed
But being closed off to genuine curiosity about differing opinions is quite pervasive these days, right?
So I replied, “Actually, we aren’t friends on this platform, but if we were you are always welcome to unfriend me. I want to invite you to consider that unfriending people just because they disagree with you might not be the best practice if you want to grow and learn as a human. I think there is a lost art of disagreeing, and when we are open to new ideas and people who think differently it allows us an opportunity to expand what we know.”
Sure. I admit to being preachy.
Suffice it to say there were crickets after that, but I’m so curious how many people out there would agree with the need for more curiosity about differing opinions, and how many think we should just avoid contact with those who disagree with us.
So today I wanted to talk about how to disagree with someone authentically and compassionately – AND how it is possible to still love someone who wildly disagrees with us.
We don’t have to get pissed off. We don’t have to hate them.
So… why is it so hard to even listen to different opinions, let alone do so without trying to change each other’s minds?
It might be easier to do this with smaller things like your favorite beach, favorite food, favorite multi-pitch alpine route, fave movie, saying “snow machine” vs “snowmobile.”
We’re able to have people disagree and still say, “Alright, I love you anyway…even though you’re totally wrong about that ;)”
But other things are much, much harder, especially around politics, religion or other topics related to deep personal values.
I want to invite us all – when we find ourselves triggered and just want the other person to believe different things or to go away or be quiet – to ask ourselves, “Why is this causing me so much suffering? Why do I want them to just be silent?”
What would happen if, instead, we came from a place of curiosity?
Because spoiler alert: it’s not their opposing political opinion that’s upsetting us.
Our brain is the source of our suffering. Oour thoughts about what someone having a different opinion means about us and our loveability, worthiness and safety in the world.
Attachment to how things need to be in order for us feel good.
Attachment to how the world “should” be.
Our thoughts about what someone else is saying are what’s upsetting us.
What they’re saying is completely neutral – a circumstance.
What they say doesn’t create a response in you or someone else. Rather, it doesn’t upset us until we have a thought about it, until we decide we disagree with it and make that a problem. In itself, their opinion has no inherent quality of good or bad, right or wrong.
Now, can you disagree with someone – a colleague, a family member, a politician – and still love them? (Not like them…love them. It’s different?)
Can you still hold space for their opinion?
Would you like to be able to do that?
It is possible. Ram Dass set a great example by having Trump on his altar, saying I see you for your Soul, not your karma (and boy do you have some karma!).”
But what I‘ve seen instead is that by silencing others or ignoring others, we’re ultimately saying, “I don’t care what’s on your mind. I don’t care about your thoughts. I only care about mine and those of other people who think like me.”
And in my opinion, that doesn’t move us any closer to a better world.
Why is it so hard for us to be with someone who doesn’t share our same values, morals, ethics, and thoughts?
Usually, it’s because we think we’re right. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say that we think we know we’re right.
But cognitive coaching and my spiritual spiritual practice of reflecting on emptiness and debating it with dharma buddies have taught me a lot about holding this non-judgmental space.
When I am coaching someone, my opinion about what should or shouldn’t be done in the world is not for my clients. My opinions are for me.
My job is to help them see their mind and the thoughts they have and decide if they want those to change – if they find those current thoughts and beliefs aren’t serving them anymore – and to help them consider different ones that are going to help them show up in the world in a way that they’re proud of.
My job isn’t to force people to be mindful or compassionate or do loving-kindness meditation or Tong-Len or quit their job or leave the marriage.
After all my years of coaching, I’ve heard it all. I’ve had high-end call girls as clients. Clients from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (I’ve been taught by them to say it the long way now..not LDS or Mormon…). I’ve had clients who are in a marriage with their high school sweetheart. Ones who are polyamorous and others who are swingers. I’ve had clients who’ve never done drugs, those who are working on stopping over drinking and those that have cannabis farms.
Ultimately, they get to define their freedom, their life, how they want to show up. They get to discover that and change it if they want to.
It’s not for me to force what I think is right onto them.
So I get to practice holding non-judgmental space a lot more than most people because of the work I do.
What I’ve learned is that when we get curious and hear someone out, when we can try to understand WHY they believe what they do, all of a sudden they are human and not just an opinion.
This makes it easier to feel compassion and kindness for them and yes, love them.
Now to be clear, I’m not saying to NOT remove toxic people from your life – I’m saying let’s be a little curious about differing opinions.
I know we have the potential to do things differently. And I’m not saying I’m perfect about this. But I remind myself of it.
We sometimes think we have to hate to create change in the world. For some people that is the energy that drives them, and they’ll need to decide if that’s really the most helpful way to roll.
And on the opposite end of that spectrum we see people who think they just have to meditate on love and light to change the world.
As usual, there is a Middle Way.
I’m saying we can have differing opinions from someone. AND love them. AND take actions to change the world – from a place of love, not hate.
To love is not to condone. To hold space is not to approve. To listen is not to promote.
Now, it doesn’t mean you don’t say anything.
There have been plenty of times that I’ve spoken up when someone made a racist or sexist or homophobic comment. You can absolutely make requests.
Of course you speak up, Rebels. Of course you take action to create a more just world.
But you don’t have to suffer because of it.
You can speak up, take action to make this world a more just and free, and NOT suffer because of it.
We don’t need to react with hate. Hate feels horrible.
So I hope you give it a go, Rebels – this Art of Disagreeing.
The next time someone has a different opinion that you, let curiosity be the antidote to your angst.
Lean in, listen, and let’s try to truly see one another.
You will learn:
// What the phenomenon of “confirmation bias” is and how it practically ensures we will be wrong about things – and why it makes it that much more important to question our own opinions and values
// 2 helpful questions you can ask yourself and others when having a disagreement
// 5 tips for how to practice the Art of Disagreeing
// What to do when you still disagree – and do it like a Buddha
// The role of Curiosity
// Check out these related episodes:
Episode 2: How to Not Care What Other People Think of You
Episode 16: How to Improve Any Relationship
Episode 19: On Anger
Episode 28: Practical Emptiness
Episode 87: The Problem with Being Right
Episode 107: Equanimity in Everyday Life
// Sherry Turkle’s Ted Talk about social media’s impact on the art of conversation: “Connected But Alone” https://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_connected_but_alone
// If you’re looking for ways to find deep, genuine connection with other like-minded humans, join me in the Adventure Mastermind – a small group of inclusive, self-identified womyn who get way behind the bullshit and embark on a 6-month adventure together, inward, and outward.
Registration is officially open. So head on over to AdventureMastermind.com and grab your spot now!
// Want something more self-paced with access to weekly group support and getting coached by yours truly? Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out. Plus, we have entire months devoted to wisdom and compassion. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com. I can’t wait to see you there!
// If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics.