How Do You React When You Hold A Different Opinion?


In our daily lives, whether it’s at work, at home or out socially, we are bound to hold different views on daily events than others around us, and I’d suggest that having different views is very healthy. But when you have a different view than someone else, how you react and what you communicate while at work is important for you to understand; especially the impact of your reaction on others.

Now first of all, it depends what you think different about. So if you are discussing the merits of a certain colour of highlighter for your notes, your preference differing from someone else’s is really not all that big an issue. The ramifications just aren’t that significant and therefore once you say you like yellow because of its brightness instead of blue because it’s harder to see the text, you’re pretty much done. But what if you differing opinion is about something much more meaningful with wider ramifications?

It’s always best to slow yourself down when being in a discussion that is leading to some decision, especially if you see that decision having a direct impact on something you care about. Think objectively about the choices you have, consider whether the topic is one you feel is something that you really have to fight for, and see if there is some merit in the views of others before taking an all or nothing position.

Sometimes what happens is that we hold a view of our co-workers and we might see them as idealistic, cowardly, aggressive, lax, emotional, practical etc. This may be based largely on past performance and discussions we’ve had, or having seen them make past decisions that did or didn’t work out. Or on the other hand, we may base our views on feelings, intuition, first impressions etc. which are less reliable. So when at a meeting where some discussion is taking place, it’s vital to separate our personal views of the person from the ideas and opinions that person is expressing. Failing to do this can result in not even listening to the person, but rather jumping to the defense of our own views prematurely.

When you listen to others, not only might you realize that despite past performance, this time somebody actually has a view that has validity, you might save yourself from interrupting the other person and making yourself look poor by shutting the other person down. The result of such behaviour is that someone else’s idea gets more attention, the other person gets sympathy, and you brand yourself as someone who is quick to speak and could benefit from actually taking a moment to think about what has just been said.

When you differ in opinion, it’s always a good idea to vocalize your difference with the opinion but base your rebuttal on facts, experience and quickly move to talking more about the merits in another course of action rather than dwelling too long on the pitfalls of someone elses point of view. Those that play smart in the sandbox also will support the person perhaps in some other idea or point of view that is less divisive from their own view or one in fact they agree entirely with.

Differing views often help groups come to more meaningful conversation. They allow groups the benefit of then having to examine differing views, find merit in each, and then come to a consensus at some point, which is often a merger or combination of two or more viewpoints. The best decisions coming out of groups are often in fact, ones that several people have some input into in order to get group buy-in. Then when the time to talk is over and the time to act begins, more people are on board. The worst thing you could possibly do is strongly voice your differing opinion, refuse to let go of your position, and then go out of your way to sabotage the action plan the group has come up with. This brands you as someone who can’t be a part of any plan that isn’t their own.

The most interesting thing sometimes happens thereafter where what you failed to see in a meeting, when later put into action, becomes something that you then understand, and you realize your opinion while still valid, might have if adopted by the group, led to a less than satisfactory conclusion. In other words, if many others are behind someone else’s ideas and you aren’t, might they see something in it that you yourself fail to see?

We all should be encouraged in my opinion to hold our own views and express them without fear of being shut down and silenced. However, this is largely affected by the situation in which we find ourselves and the subject over which we are together. If a fire alarm goes off at work, it would hardly be proper to gauge everyone’s opinion and discuss whether to evacuate or not. Somethings we just do because that’s the agreed upon procedure and while we might personally think going outside is a waste of time and inconvenient in the rain or cold weather, we do it nonetheless because the consequences of being wrong even once are extreme.

Again, when you differ in opinion from others, back up your view with as much information based on facts and experience. Separate your views of the person you differ with the person themself. And by all means, every now and then give in graciously on some things in order to get a little on things that matter more to you.

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