So, You Think You're Tolerant?
How to Be Tolerant to People's Opinions
It can be difficult to tolerate other people's opinions, especially about sensitive subjects you have strong feelings about. However, everyone has to deal with people they disagree with at times. Work on changing your mindset. If you're comfortable with yourself, you'll be less sensitive about other people disagreeing with you. If you run into conflicts, approach them in a calm fashion. Some subjects, however, should be avoided at times. Very sensitive topics may be so personal that differences of opinion can cause tension.
Changing Your Mindset
Form your own opinions.The more comfortable you feel with yourself and your opinions, the less defensive you will feel. Oftentimes, people have trouble tolerating opinions that threaten their worldview. Being more comfortable with yourself, and how you see the world, can lead to more positive interactions with people different than you.
- Really consider your opinions on a variety of issues. Do some research using reputable sources rather than relying on knee-jerk responses you have. You can, for example, read a number news stories and editorials that present both sides of a topical issue before deciding how you feel. It is a good idea to learn about both sides of an issue to make sure you are well-informed. Look into an issue like immigration reform and decide your opinion for yourself.
- It's okay not to have opinions on certain topics, or to be drawn in two directions. Do not feel like you have to be opinionated. If you're not sure, try to accept this. For example, many people are torn on the issue of abortion. If you are not sure how you feel about this issue, you can say something like, "I honestly don't know my opinion. Sorry."
- Try to remember that your attitude towards yourself defines your attitude towards the world. If you feel well informed and confident, you'll be less likely to be threatened by other people's opinions and input.
Do not personalize someone else's opinion.Sometimes, it can be difficult to separate how someone feels about an issue from how they feel about you. People disagree about hot button issues all the time, such as religion and politics. However, for most people, disagreements are about the issue. They are not a personal slight or attack against another person.
- Think about things you have strong opinions on. For example, maybe you're very in favor of universal healthcare. Do you have friends or relatives who have a different opinion? How do you feel about them? For example, your cousin may feel healthcare should remain private, while you believe in a single payer system.
- Chances are, you don't harbor any negative opinions about people who disagree with your perspective. Therefore, it's safe to reason those who disagree with you do not judge you as a person based on your opinion. For example, do you judge your cousin for their opinion on healthcare? Probably not, and your cousin probably does not judge you either.
- It's easier to be tolerant of opinions if you're able to see them objectively. Try to see someone's opinion as separate from how they judge you and your character. This will help be able to disagree with people but tolerate these disagreements.
- Remember that everyone is an individual who is entitled to their opinions and beliefs. Even if they differ from your opinions and beliefs, it is still important to respect that other people have different perspectives than you do.
Check your expectations.Oftentimes, a difficult to tolerate other people's opinions is a reflection of unreasonable expectations. Do you expect everyone to get along all the time? Do you expect people to agree with you most of the time? If so, your expectations may not be realistic.
- Not everyone agrees on everything. Even best friends and married couples have places where their views differ. If you're surrounded by people with similar views to yours most of the time, you may sometimes accidentally assume people agree with you. However, even likeminded people do not always agree.
- Try to keep this in mind going into a situation. While most of your friends and family members may vote Democrat, for example, keep in mind roughly half the country disagrees. Going into new situations, do not expect people's views to align politically with your own.
Remember the Golden Rule.How would you feel if you expressed an opinion and someone judged you? This would probably make you feel hurt. Try to follow the Golden Rule and treat others the way you wish to be treated. Just as you wouldn't want to feel judged or attacked for an opinion, do not judge or attack others.
- Remember, people are not their opinions. While someone may disagree on an issue that's of personal importance to you, try to pause and think about that person's perspective. Maybe they had unique experiences that formed how they feel, which may be different than your own.
- Whenever you feel intolerant to another person's opinion, pause and reflect on the Golden Rule. Just as you would expect someone to consider your perspective without judging you, extend this same courtesy to someone else.
Develop healthy coping mechanisms.When you encounter another viewpoint that is not in line with your own, you may get frustrated or upset. Therefore, it may be helpful for you to develop some coping mechanisms to make dealing with this kind of frustration easier for you. You can try including some deep breathing, yoga, or meditation in your daily routine, or get into the habit of asking yourself some questions whenever you encounter a viewpoint that upsets you. Some questions you might ask yourself include:
- What is it about the topic that makes me feel so passionate about my opinion?
- What do I really want the others with opposing views to know about my side? What do I want them to understand and comprehend?
- Am I having a rational emotional response to this? Or am I bringing in prior emotional experiences that may not be relevant to this particular situation?
- What emotions am I feeling right now related to this topic?
- What are some ways I can approach my point of view in a non-threatening way and reduce the possibility of offending others?
Change the subject.In some situations, changing the subject may be the best way to deal with a disagreement about a sensitive topic. You would especially want to use this strategy when dealing with a disagreement in the workplace, but you can use it in any situation.
- For example, if a coworker brings up gun control and you disagree with their point of view, then you could change the subject by saying, “Yeah, that’s tough. Hey, are you going to the company picnic next weekend? Sounds like it’s going to be a fun day!”
- If the person persists after you have tried to change the subject, then you can kindly say something like, “I am not comfortable talking about this subject. Can we talk about something else?”
Avoid negative body language.When you're talking out a major disagreement, negative body language may accidentally slip in. If things get heated, you may do things like roll your eyes, sigh, or cross your arms. Negative body language will only make the other person feel hurt and frustrated. Be aware of what your body is doing and try to use attentive, respectful body language.
- Try to maintain eye contact when speaking and listening to show you're paying attention. Keep your facial expression relaxed as well. Avoid furrowing your brows or frowning. Aim for a neutral, relaxed facial expression. Nodding is also a good way to indicate your attention.
- Sit facing the person and try to avoid having obstacles between you. Sit in a reasonably close proximity to the person for talking, such as next to them on a sofa or across from them at a table. You can also lean in to indicate your interest.
- Maintain good posture. Don't cross your arms because this can make you seem like you are resistant to or rejecting what the other person says.
Stay calm and objective.It can be hard not to personalize something. Oftentimes, when talking over disagreements, you have the urge to win an argument. Try to stay calm and look at the situation objectively. No one is trying to win. You are trying to better understand someone else's perspective.
- Remind yourself someone's opinion is not personal. Try to focus on the objective facts. How and why do you feel strongly about this and how does it affect you? This is what you're trying to convey.
- Focus on facts over feelings. For example, don't say, "It's hurtful that you don't believe in providing contraception because I rely on it." Instead, say something like, "A lot of women, myself included, do rely on contraception. That's why it's so important to me."
- Try to remember an emotional reaction will not help you gain insight and understanding of someone else's perspective. Even when you strongly disagree, respect the person enough to remain calm.
Listen.You should always listen to someone else's side. Do not interrupt when someone else is talking. Ask that they not interrupt when you take your turn. Truly listen to what another person says and try to understand where they're coming from while you're listening.
- You can also try briefly paraphrase what someone is saying to make sure you understand. For example, "So, you feel that the government is not responsible for paying for birth control?"
- Remember, listening to someone else does not take away from your own opinion. It is productive to understand the opinions of others. If you understand why people feel the way they do, you will find it easier to tolerate others opinions.
Try to come to a mutual understanding.Look for a place where you can both agree or at least agree to disagree respectfully. Deeply held opinions sometimes do not change. However, you can at least strive for mutual respect.
- For example, say something like, "I see we're not going to agree on contraception. But I understand your opinion more and you understand mine more. I think this was still productive."
Learning What Topics to Avoid
Prepare non-controversial statements.If you're going into a situation where you're likely to disagree, or where hot button topics may be brought up, prepare statements that won't spark controversy. At things like work events, for example, it's often best to keep opinions on sensitive issues to yourself. Try to think of some casual comments to make instead of discussing politics.
- For example, you're meeting with co-workers after a recent election. The election will certainly be a topic of discussion, but try to think of more neutral things to discuss. Bring up, say, a ballot that passed without much resistance instead of a heated race for senator. Remember also that it is best to avoid talking about politics or other sensitive subjects with co-workers.
- You can also try directing the conversation elsewhere. You can talk about traffic on Election Day and then try to steer the conversation to a general discussion about the morning commute.
Limit conversations about sensitive political issues.In certain places, you may want to avoid politics altogether. If you're going to a family dinner where you know you disagree with others, for example, try not to bring up heated political issues. Talk about what's going on with family members instead and leave politics out of the discussion.
- However, while you can try to avoid a topic like politics, remember it's okay to plainly say that you don’t want to discuss it. You can do so in a tactful way, and then change the subject if things get heated.
- For example, say something like, "I don't wish to talk about this topic at this time."
Refrain from discussing religion at times.Religion is another sensitive issue. At professional settings, or even family events, it's often best not to bring it up. Try to steer the conversation away from topics regarding religion, especially current events. These issues are deeply personal and people may have trouble not taking opinions as a personal slight.
- However, close friends and family members may disagree with you. You also may disagree with your spouse on topics like religion. You should discuss major issues with those you are close to, but remember you may not always agree.
- It may be important for close friends and family members to know your opinion, especially if the issue may come up. If you're an atheist, for example, it's important to let people know so they don't invite you to church or push their religion on you. You can, however, agree to disagree at times. Keep in mind that this will not be a good idea in all situations. For example, it is a good idea for your significant other to know these things about you, but a cousin or grandparent probably does not need this much information. Try to avoid the topic with anyone who you do not think will be tolerant of your views.
- For example, if your aunt invites you to mass on Christmas, you can say something like, "Thank you for the invitation to go to mass Aunt Lilly, but I will have to respectfully decline." There is no need for you to explain your reason and doing so may lead to conflict. Keep it simple and respectful.
QuestionWhat about people who always think that they are right?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf someone does not respect your opinions, it may be best to avoid engaging with them.Thanks!
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