How many times have you been in a conversation or even argument with someone and you have found yourself wishing they could see things from your perspective? But no matter how hard you try, the other person seems determined to misunderstand you? 

 

Why We Reject Opinions Different To Our Own And How To Make A Different Choice

 

Do people really go out of their way to misunderstand each other? Occasionally I think some people do! But for the most part, I believe that human beings are good, that we want to connect more than we want to argue and fight.

 

So what are some of the reasons that cause us to discount other people’s points of view?

 

Observer Bias.

Every person has a unique set of biases, assumptions and preconceptions based on many things including age, sex, race, environment etc. Essentially, observer bias is when we alter what we see by only noticing what we expect, rather than the whole picture.

 

Cognitive Dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is the perception of contradictory information. It is known as the ‘psychological stress’ experienced when a person participates in an action that goes against their own personal set of feelings, ideas, beliefs, and values.

In his book, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, author and psychologist Leon Festinger found that human beings seek out psychological consistency to function mentally in the real world. He expresses that someone who experiences internal inconsistency tends to become psychologically uncomfortable. 

 

Fear.

Simply put, sometimes we are so attached to our own points of view that it is too scary to consider an alternative. Human safety relies on connection – we are pack animals. We gravitate to people who share common views and ideas as a primal behaviour. If we are to consider opinions that go against the ideas of our pack – we risk putting ourselves in danger.

 

Do any of the above examples sound familiar to you? Perhaps you have experienced one or all of them in an exchange with another person. Maybe you have done them yourself – even unconsciously.

 

So what now?

 

The psychological processes I have mentioned mean that what we see and hear is filtered through a lens that can cause us not to necessarily have the ability, or the desire, to view things from another’s perspective.

 

Our brains are wired to avoid pain. When we are presented with information that goes against what we feel, believe and perceive to be true – it can cause us physical stress. Perhaps this explains the occasional emotional outbursts that occur when points of view differ.

 

We are here on this planet to learn and grow. We want to become more conscious, loving and accepting of both ourselves and others.

 

Why We Reject Opinions Different To Our Own And How To Make A Different Choice

 

To make the choice to take on another person’s perspective means intentionally creating distance from your own point of view. It does not mean that you have to adopt their perspective at all. 

 

You are entitled to your own opinions. Just like everyone else. 

 

What it does mean is accepting that you may not have all the answers. That can be challenging for our ego to accept!

 

Think about a recent conflict that you may have had. Now, try to set aside your point of you and think about the mental state and perspective of the other person.

 

Notice the resistance you may feel. Breathe into it. Keep going.

 

Use your imagination to think about why the other person has their point of view.  Ask yourself – what is it about this person’s experience of life that has created this perspective?

 

Using empathy in this way to see things from another person’s perspective is humility in action. It is emotional intelligence. It’s actively choosing to operate from the heart instead of from fear or conditioning.

 

I believe this is one of the single most important practices we need across the globe in 2021. 

 

Everywhere we look there is fighting and division – it is truly heartbreaking. 

 

If we can all be brave enough to choose to accept differing perspectives, without fearing that we will lose ourselves in the process, the world as we know it would shift dramatically towards a more loving, conscious and accepting place.

 

It all starts with us. So, what choice are you going to make?

 

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