I recently viewed a video on Youtube of a large group of students at a prominent Canadian university "protesting".
2 things were obvious.
First, they were extremely passionate about their position on the cause, which reflected a particular set of values and beliefs.
Second, they were entirely UNWILLING to acknowledge any arguments, reasoning, or perspectives that were not in agreement with their position.
I state this because their form of "protest" was not thoughtful debate or peaceful demonstration, but rather shouting as loud as they could and making enough noise to drown out and silence those they disagreed with.
It was ringing cowbells and shouting expletives towards those daring to hold an opposite set of values and beliefs.
These students were treating those who dared disagree with their position as criminal.
Why Disagreement Is Treated So Harshly
After watching this video, I asked a friend who is a sociology professor why these students were behaving so severely and disrespectfully towards those who didn't agree with them.
This is how he explained it to me:
- This form of extreme protest, while not exclusive to younger generations such as millennials, is far more common among younger people because of how they have been raised.
- Generally speaking, people under the age of 30 have been raised in a social system that has gone to great lengths to build within them a healthy self-esteem.
- While the intent has been noble, this has led to the unintended consequence of these younger people not developing the emotional skills needed to accept and cope with dissenting positions to their own.
- As a result, younger people have a tendency to see dissenting views as personal attacks against them (and their values/beliefs) because acknowledging positions contrary to their own requires acknowledging that their own view may be "wrong", which is something they have never learned to how to effectively deal with.
I want to emphasize that, while these insights are provided within the context of people under the age of 30, extreme intolerance towards those who disagree is exhibited by people of all ages, races, religions, and social groups.
The Key Is NEUTRALIZATION
For years now, The 2% Factor has been teaching people how to leverage the art of neutralization to reduce the conflict and tension they experience in their life that results from having to deal with difficult people and difficult situations.
Unlike other methods of dealing with disagreement, neutralization's primary goal is to eliminate the negative effects other people's words or behaviour may have on us...we are our own central focus.
Neutralization, as taught in our various Mastery programs, holds as a core truth the fact that we cannot control the words or behaviour of others...they will say and do what they choose to say and do.
Therefore, efforts that focus on trying to change the beliefs, behaviour, opinions, or perspectives of others are largely doomed to failure.
They key to addressing disagreement in a positive way that doesn't quickly breakdown into conflict (and possibly violence) is to stop trying to change other people and focus on changing ourselves...changing our ego-driven need for others to acknowledge we are right, they are wrong, we are righteous, they ignorant, we are enlightened, they are naive and misguided.
When we neutralize within ourselves the inability to accept the other side of the disagreement as valid to those that hold it and respect their right to hold it, we no longer treat the disagreement as a crime, sin, or deep offence.
So...how can you learn to do this?
Tips For Neutralization
Neutralization is a skill and like any skill it can be learned by anyone who genuinely wants to learn it. Here are a couple of tips to move you in the right direction.
- Calm down and organize your thoughts. No matter how passionate you are about the cause or issue, when you let your emotions overtake you, you lose perspective and are far more likely to become aggressive in your behaviour.
- Try to understand the other point of view. You don't need to agree with the other perspective to understand it and accept it as a valid.
- Listen without judgement. Listen to others without judgement. This calms others down and effectively neutralizes the energy being put into the other person’s behaviour.
- Empathize. This can be difficult but empathizing puts you in the other person’s shoes where, once you see the issue from their point-of-view, you are better equipped to neutralize without attacking.
- Realize your part in the interaction. Acknowledge and accept your part in the interaction so that you are able to neutralize the foundation of the other person’s attack.
- Accept responsibility for your part. Take responsibility for your actions...when you do, you have fully neutralized the other person’s argument on you.
Disagreement Is NOT An Offence Against You
When others hold an opposing opinion or perception to you, they are not bad, wrong, stupid, or naive.
Like you, they hold their position for very real and valid reasons.
If you become angry when others disagree with your position and respond aggressively, that is on you.
You own your words. You own your actions. You are accountable for your reaction.
When you respond to the differing perspectives of others respectfully and honestly, you can improve the interaction.
However, if you treat their opposing views as a personal attack against you, you become a willing participant in a pointless argument that does little to change anyone's perspective and merely serves to make yourself look foolish.
Whichever path you choose, be an adult and own it.