When You Don’t Think Like Them…

My friends and I don’t always see eye to eye. When it happens (a spontaneous disagreement) it hits me, like out of nowhere – a complete surprise! I’m tongue-tied and twisted! I don’t know what to say. You’ve probably been there too…that moment when you realize you and your bestie are more different than you thought – it can be awkward, uncomfortable and confusing!

When it comes to our good friends, we want to feel accepted. We like the idea that we should think alike, but it doesn’t always happen that way. When we stumble into one of those awkward moments it’s easy to feel torn between saving our friendship and hanging onto our ideals. We have to decide which one matters more.

Depending on the topic, we might even feel compelled to agree just to keep the peace and an appearance of unity, but the truth is, we don’t think the same! I tend to panic, even when the thing at hand isn’t all that big a deal. Part of me wants to just state my case, to try to be “right,” but that approach can backfire with a good friend. But the opposite, pretending to agree, can leave me feeling even worse.

It’s important to understand that our discomfort with disagreement is mostly a fear of being rejected – and what I finally discovered is there’s a third way to deal with a difference of opinions. What if instead of agreeing to disagree, we agree to Discover!!

I have found that one of the best ways to handle differing opinions is to ask your friends to share their thoughts more specifically with you – to elaborate. Then listen: ask questions for clarification. Listening doesn’t mean you have to change how you think, it only means you’re respectful enough to honor another person’s opinion whether it matches yours, or not. Sometimes it’s hard for us to listen because we’re busy thinking about how much we disagree and how we might convince our friend to think like us.

But if we want to approach a difference of opinion with the intent to discover, we have to care more. We have to want to know how the other person’s experience has shaped the way they think – You might be surprised at what is revealed if you wait long enough and sincerely care. A funny thing can happen during discovery…listening with your own ideas out of the picture and getting another perspective can actually bring more clarity and depth to the way you think.

Best case scenario: your friendship benefits by your willingness to listen and you gain a better understanding of why your friend thinks and feels the way he/she does! In that way, our differences can become easier to live with. Win-win if I do say so myself!

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