The Big Picture: Dealing with different opinions

By: Annie Sragner, Assistant Arts & Life Editor


This past week, I had an experience with a newly-met person that changed my perspective about how I understand others. I was in class and we were discussing a topic that I am close to and feel passionately about. After I contributed my opinion, a fellow classmate said he felt completely differently, and then shared his thoughts.

At first, his words left me a little miffed, maybe even disrespected, but sense and a little decency returned as I considered what he was saying. His experience on the matter differed from mine because we had very different backgrounds, which affected what we thought.  But that does not devalue or invalidate either of our opinions, nor does it make either of us a jerk. At least it shouldn’t.

Ideally, education is essentially the process of catching everyone up with what the rest of humanity already understands. We all see the world with different eyes, and it is impossible for any one person to know everything about everything.

But sometimes we believe we do. 

Even something as mindless as driving can reveal our dark side. Our commutes are probably the most dangerous part of our day.  Most of us believe we are the best driver on the road while everyone else is less capable and automatically a deserving target of road rage. However, in reality, all of us have about the same skill set on the road. 

It is the “my way or the highway” beliefs in perception and expectation that are often the core catalysts of conflict. Almost any misunderstanding can be boiled down to someone acting one way and someone else expecting something else.  These two persons’ histories have left them on different pages without effective communication.  But, as with driving, a little patience goes a long way.

Patience is a virtue, and it is frequently necessary for avoiding or resolving misunderstandings with differently-experienced individuals. Instill empathy in your words and actions with others to discover where they are truly coming from. Words are only sound waves that we use to connect with others, and it is important to govern them with care. 

We each construct our own individual character and tendencies based on what we have experienced to date. You may know much more about certain things than others do, and others know more than you. Individuals must keep open minds in order to learn as much as possible during this short life.

Don’t negate, investigate. See their visions of others and ask them questions.  How different could things be if we heard and listened?

One thought on “The Big Picture: Dealing with different opinions

  1. Here, here! Good points and well written. The country is so divided now – Liberal and Conservative, Democrat and Republican, Pro-This and Anti-That. If we took time to at least accept someone else’s view and opinions maybe the country wouldn’t be so divided. The country was founded on compromise, balance and negotiation – compromise of power between state and federal governments, balance of power and negotiation between executive, legislative and judicial branches of government – these are what makes the USA great.

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