The other day someone had posted a comment on a FB post I made and she said, “Please unfriend me. We obviously have different beliefs.”
And this really stood out to me because I thought it was so…immature to not want to see differing opinions.
But it’s quite pervasive these days, right?
So I replied, “Actually, we aren’t friends on Facebook, but if we were you are always welcome to do so. But 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.”
Suffice it to say there were crickets after that, but I’m so curious how many people out there would agree with me, 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, because I think that as a whole we sort of suck at it. Not just around politics or religion, but lifestyles and other personal choices as well.
Believe it or not, it is possible to still love someone who wildly disagrees with you.
You don’t have to get pissed off. You don’t have to hate them.
So why is it so hard?
What we often see instead is people having a really hard time even listening to different opinions… and an even harder time doing so without trying to change each other’s minds.
It’s easier to do this with smaller things like your favorite beach, favorite food, favorite multipitch 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 or religion or other topics related to deep personal values.
And I’m sure you’ve been in this situation. I know I have before.
I want to encourage us all – when we find ourselves triggered and just want the other person to believe different things or to go away or just be quiet – I want us to ask ourselves, “Why is this causing us so much suffering? Why do we 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 you.
Your brain is the source of your suffering. Your thoughts about it.
Attachment to how things need to be in order to feel good.
Attachment to how the world “should” be.
Your thoughts about what someone else is saying are what’s upsetting you.
What they’re saying is completely neutral – a circumstance.
If you’re in Freedom School or the Rebel buddhist FB group and you’re doing thought work, you would put their opinion in your C line.
It’s completely neutral not because it doesn’t create a response in you or someone else – because clearly it does. It is completely neutral because it doesn’t upset you until you have a thought about it, until you decide you disagree with it. 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?
Can you still hold space for their opinion?
Would you like to be able to do that?
Because what I‘ve seen is that by silencing them or ignoring them, we’re ultimately saying, “I don’t care what’s in 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 and morals and 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 coaching has taught me a lot about holding this non-judgmental space.
Because 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 overdrinking 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. Or to be upset about it.
So I get to practice holding non-judgmental space a lot more than most people.
What I’ve learned is that when we get curious and hear someone out…when we 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.
Topics in this episode:
// 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
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.
// Check out these related episodes:
Episode 28: Practical Emptiness
For more on the Motivational Triad check out Episode 2: How to Not Care What Other People Think of You
// 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 new to the squad, grab the starter kit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll get access to the private Facebook group where you can ask me questions! Once you join, there’s also a weekly FB live called Wake the F*ck Up Wednesday, where you can ask questions that come up as you do this work – in all parts of your life.
// If you’re interested in a really awesome way to make the next year your best one yet, join Freedom School. It will set you up to live the best version of you in the year to come. This is an amazing group of rebel women committed to creating lives of freedom, adventure and purpose. You can even gift a Freedom School membership to someone that you know could use the boost and come together! You’ll dive into getting clear about: what you want, how to clear your life of the things you don’t, skills for living an authentic life so you are out there being YOU and not what other people want you to be, and more.