Ever heard the phrase “Opinions are like noses. Everybody’s got one”? Okay, maybe you heard a more vulgar version of it but the message is the same. In a sea of opinions, how do you know what’s right and what’s wrong? How do you know if your own thinking is correct or if you’re just shouting into an echo chamber?
It’s probably one of the hardest things I wrestle with–other people’s opinions. The best rule of thumb is that the answer lies somewhere in the middle. You know that the racist you’re sitting with is wrong. They believe they’re right. Never the twain shall meet, right? They won’t change your mind, just as much as you can’t change theirs. However, you and every other person on the planet will be astronomically hurt by feeling misunderstood and unheard. What’s the middle ground? Truly listening and not thinking about yourself or your own opinions while you listen. Truly engaging with someone on their level and trying to speak their language. No ulterior motives. Try to understand where they’re coming from, if only to learn what makes this person tick.
Even people we don’t like or agree with want to be (or at least feel) heard and understood. It doesn’t mean you now agree with them or that you accept, or even tolerate, their opinions. Don’t believe for a moment that you haven’t also held an incorrect belief in your life. What you can accept is the humbling knowledge that every person on earth, including yourself, has been stunningly wrong about a lot of things.