Monday; October 8

When I was a youngster I was confronted with the reality that not everyone looked, acted or thought the same.  This wasn’t necessarily an easy lesson for me to learn, but through the influence of my teachers, mentors and professors I was shown how to deal with differences of opinions.  Honestly, I can’t tell you who taught me what and I can’t say that I have always abided by their principles, but as I look back there are some ideas that have stuck with me:
1.  Learn to disagree without being disagreeable.  We may not hold the same belief as others, but that doesn’t give us the right to be disrespectful.  Name-calling or belittling another person’s point has never settled an argument.  No, we don’t have to think the same way, but there is no excuse for being a jerk!
2.  Defend another’s right to express their position.  The First Amendment guarantees the legal right to express our ideas freely, but we have a deeper obligation to personally protect the right of others to express their beliefs.  Again, I don’t have to agree with it, but the greater good is done when we feel comfortable enough do discuss conflicts openly.
3.  It is hard to argue with opinions.  A discussion of empirical information makes for an easy debate, but when someone begins with the words, “I feel …” we should realize we are not in a logical arena.  It is very difficult to win an “emotional” argument, often the best thing to do is listen to the other person’s ideas and acknowledge their feelings.
4.  Stay on topic.  The easiest way to lose an argument (and, more importantly, a relationship) is to attack the other person.  Too often, when we feel like we are losing ground, we’ll shift the topic or take things from the rational to the emotional.  There is nothing wrong with exchanging opinions (see #3), but let’s be fair with each other and acknowledge the transition.
          It is great to live when and where we do.  It is important to be able to discuss things openly.  When we adhere to a few simple rules we can all walk away as winners!
          Think About It!

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