Difference of opinion is inevitable in any diverse society, but showing respect for opinions (whether you agree or not) is important for maintaining positive relationships.
When you can respect opinions you disagree with, you will be able to connect with others on a deeper level and build trust, which will open your mind to new ideas. Being respectful requires self-esteem, self-control, sensitivity, tolerance and fairness. As we mature, we’re expected to develop respect for everyone's opinions and not just those that belong to ourselves.
Many people are rigid about their opinions. Some even tend to disagree if what others say goes against their beliefs. But you can always find common ground by conducting civil discourse.
Opinions are the expression of your unique way of viewing the world. Your opinions reflect your upbringing, life experiences, education, and other cognitive biases. People with similar opinions may be drawn to one another, but a group of people with differing viewpoints can also be engaging and stimulating. You might not always agree with others, but it's important to respect their views.
Here's a complete guide on how you can learn to accept people's opinions even if you disagree.
The Right to Have an Opinion
There is some debate about whether or not we all have a right to our opinions. While opinions are subjective, they may be based on facts such as when someone's opinion is grounded in technical expertise, for example, a legal opinion.
It's interesting how people feel strongly about the things they believe in. Their beliefs shape their worldviews, so it's natural to feel slightly rejected when someone disagrees with you. But it's also important to remember that everyone has a right to his or her own opinion.
Disagreements will happen. But you can choose to listen carefully and respectfully, and to communicate your feelings civilly. A world without such disagreements is a world without innovation and change.
What Does Respecting Others' Opinions Look Like?
Scrolling through social media will often reveal people arguing aggressively over differing views. However, we don't always have to be hostile towards opposing ideas. Avoid heated debates - they never end well. Learn to separate your feelings from the issue at hand and analyze if someone else's opinions are valid in the context of their life experience. Arguing and undermining other people's beliefs will not help us grow. We learn by gaining new perspectives and widening our understanding.
Respect people's opinions and you'll be able to engage in civil discourse, which is vital for idea sharing. Humility and kindness are highly valued qualities. It shows you're willing to listen, even when it's hard. This will earn you respect even from people who disagree with you.
Disagreeing with someone doesn't have to be unpleasant. Here are some ways to respect differences:
- Admit when you've made a mistake
When you notice your own flaws, you have two choices: either get defensive or accept your fault. The first choice will put your self-respect at stake and trap you in a never-ending argument. The second choice will help you take a solution-oriented approach that leaves no room for hurt feelings and burnt bridges.
- When you disagree, listen to the other side patiently
Be curious about opposing views. Ask people why they hold those opinions and listen to them patiently. You may not agree with everything they say, but active listening will help you understand the ground of their views, which will make it easier to counter their arguments.
- Don't raise your voice
You don't always need to prove yourself right. It’s fine to politely communicate your feelings and opinions in response, but yelling and being argumentative shows a lack of respect for the other person. The point isn’t to “win”, so there’s no reason to be aggressive. Agreeing to disagree is sometimes the most productive solution to a conflict.
- Be polite and kind
Kindness and respect are intertwined. If you can be kind in the midst of a disagreement, you'll earn people's respect.
- Practice empathy
If you understand why someone believes what they say, it's easier to empathize with them. Despite differences, it's possible to coexist in a gray area without imposing your ideas on others.
- Don't call others' opinions wrong.
Opinions reflect personal choices, not facts. It’s unnecessary to feel threatened or argue over which opinion is correct, because oftentimes, no one is “right”. The best way to learn how to respect someone's opinions is to consider how you'd want other people to behave when you share your perspective. This reminder will help you reciprocate respectfully with contrarian views.
The Benefits of Respecting others' Opinions in the Workplace
Showing respect toward others' opinions creates a cooperative environment. Be it at home or in the workplace, respecting diverse opinions yields excellent benefits, as mentioned below:
- People feel motivated to share their ideas.
- Employees don't engage in trivial office politics and are more satisfied.
- A healthy workplace culture is cultivated.
- People engage in civil discourse that facilitates knowledge sharing.
- Teammates bond faster and develop enriching relationships.
- Mindful listening widens the perspective to new ways of approaching the situation.
- Being considerate of others' opinions earns you their respect.
Everyone has the power to think and reason. Differences in opinions have led to many innovations in the world. If we can benefit from diverse views, then we must also reap their benefits in our professional and personal lives.
Tips for How to Oppose or Respectfully Disagree
Respect everyone's opinions, but don't be afraid to express your own. If you want to reach a conclusion that everyone can agree on, try using a civil approach. It might help avoid future clashes and disputes.
Here are some solution-oriented tips to help you respectfully disagree:
- Stick to facts instead of emotions and opinions.
- Avoid making the person feel small for holding certain beliefs.
- Use "I" statements to communicate what you think and feel. Encourage similar behavior from the other side. For example, instead of saying, "This is not true," try saying, "I don't think this is true. Here's why."
- Ask questions to understand the root of opposing opinions and listen carefully.
- Have a civil approach and find a middle ground by agreeing to some parts of the discussion.
- Stay calm while explaining your perspective.
- Remember that you only disagree on one topic. This shouldn't change your relationship with the person.
- Agree to disagree if you can’t come to a middle ground.
- Walk away from the conversation if the other person turns hostile. Don't get defensive and escalate the situation.
A healthy self-esteem is the first step toward being respectful of others. Respect yourself enough to be honest with yourself and others. Understand that you are your priority—not what someone else wants or expects from you. When you accept that some relationships aren't meant to last, it's easier to move on from them.
Constructive Opinion and Destructive Critique
Opinions in the form of feedback come in two forms: destructive and constructive. Both types of feedback point out our mistakes, flaws, or potential improvements. While constructive criticism offers suggestions and possible solutions, destructive criticism is cutting, derogatory, or even mocks our failures.
Seek constructive feedback to improve your work. Ignore destructive criticism, which adds negativity and fosters self-doubt. Here are some ways you can differentiate between constructive feedback and negative criticism:
- Intention - Constructive criticism keeps your best interest at heart. Destructive criticism aims to humiliate or insult the other person.
- Focus of criticism - Positive feedback focuses on improving your shortcomings. Destructive critique leans toward personal attacks.
- Nature - Productive criticism offers an actionable, solution-oriented approach. Destructive opinions are mostly vague and demeaning without any clear takeaways.
Always welcome constructive criticism with an open mind. Ask questions to understand their feedback, and use that feedback to improve yourself. Don't let destructive critique get you down; it's only words, not bullets.
To grow and learn, acknowledge your own beliefs and those of others. Create an environment where disparate points of view can be expressed respectfully. Civil discourse is the best tool at your disposal to build healthy, collaborative relationships.