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Show Respect for the Opinions of Others

Estimated Lesson Time: 4 minutes

I have recently been reading about riots taking place in Boston and New York, due to the 2003 Red Sox/Yankees playoffs. For the most part, these are grown men causing each other physical injury all because some believe, “Sox rule!” and others believe, “Yanks rule!” Not showing respect for another’s opinion is not only a faux pas, but can, and often does, lead to anxiety, tension, failed relationships, and even unlawful actions.

An opinion is a belief or conclusion held with confidence but not substantiated by positive knowledge or proof. Of course, positive knowledge and proof are debatable, and with a good argument, fact can be seen as fiction. In Day 149, you read how to properly state your opinions and beliefs to avoid argument and conflict. However, many people do not show such tact and state their beliefs and opinions as fact. It is up to you to differentiate an opinion from a fact or at least question a statement if you are unsure. If someone tells you that Elvis, the king of rock and roll, is still alive, you may ask, “How do you know that?” A response such as, “I read it in the World Weekly News” will hopefully make it clear that the person is not stating a fact.

Once you know that someone has stated an opinion, you have four basic options: you can a) accept the opinion and keep quiet, b) state your own opinion, c) express your agreement with the opinion, or d) express your disagreement with the opinion. In any case, you should show respect for the opinion. The best way to do this is by realizing that if you had the experiences and information, and you were in the same situation as the one stating the opinion, you would most likely have the same opinion. Respect the person for taking a stance and having enough courage to share the opinion. Never tell someone stating an opinion that he or she is wrong—this is effective communication suicide.

Accepting an opinion and keeping quiet. If you accept another’s opinion, you are not agreeing with it, but more important, you are not expressing your disapproval of it. An example is asking someone his or her favorite color. Unless someone’s favorite color happens to be puke green, very few people would express their disapproval. If someone has an opinion different from yours, this is most often the best course of action to take unless you have a good reason for wanting to change the opinion of the other person.

Stating your own opinion. It is generally considered rude to offer your opinion unless asked. Stating your opinion that contradicts the opinion just shared causes tension and awkwardness. If you feel it necessary to state your own opinion, follow the advice below under “expressing your disagreement with the opinion.”

Expressing your agreement with the opinion. Whenever possible in conversation, express your sincere agreement with another’s opinion. This is a great rapport-building strategy.

Expressing your disagreement with the opinion. Disagreeing with others is a sure way to lose good rapport. Disagreement causes defensiveness: a physiological and psychological reaction, which tightens up the muscles in one’s body and causes the person to be less open to influence. Do you really feel disagreeing is necessary? What will you hope to accomplish by expressing your disagreement? If you honestly feel that you must express your disagreement, start by asking questions about why the other person feels as they do. How did they form the opinion? What facts do they have if any, to support their opinion? Ask these questions out of curiosity and with an open mind, not with resentment or disbelief. Once you have a better idea of how the opinion was formed, you can once again choose to accept it or agree with it, without ever having had to disagree with it.

The fact is, most people can have different opinions and still go on living in harmony. It is the difference of opinions that causes conflicting actions or behaviors that must be addressed by influence and persuasion. Keep an open mind and listen to the reasoning of the other person. Question your own opinions and show respect for the opinions of others.

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 Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):

  • Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
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    From the Course:
    Personal Development
    Year To Success
    Bo Bennett, PhD

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    Personal Development : Personal Transformation
    Offered by VirversitY
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