Letters in Space

Ramblings on creativity, education, and trying to live a considered life.
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Yesterday’s #talkersblock post was, frankly, a rant about my unhappiness with the new automated systems that my local council have foisted on their populace. And, incidentally, I stand by every word of it! But I’ve had a fair amount of reaction to it, and the strength of the reaction has made me think a lot about the shift in my attitudes towards opposition.

I posted the article late last night, and went to bed, feeling relieved that I’d fulfilled my bargain with myself (and the #talkersblock crowd - for the original challenge guidelines read this) and got all the words out for the day. When I woke up, I found that I’d been reblogged by two other tumblr users, and that one of them had written a note about my post. It seemed pretty angry. The final line of it was “This is the most stupid thing I have ever read. Ever.”

Or words to that effect. I wasn’t reading it too closely by that stage.

I was a bit shocked, to be honest. I was shocked that someone disagreed with me so strongly that they would declare it in the way that they did, using the words that they did. My first impulse was to write something back, to reply, to try to explain myself and my opinion.

But I didn’t.

As I padded around the house getting breakfast, I realised two things. First, I stood by everything that I’d written the night before. The second thing was that, ultimately, I didn’t really care if someone I had never met, had never heard of until this morning, and would never hear of again, was in agreement with me. Similarly, when one of my friends on Facebook also disagreed with me, I wasn’t too fussed. She is entitled to her opinions, and I am entitled to mine.

Once upon a time I would have been really upset to have people disagree with me so strongly. I may even have caved in and deleted the post. To be honest, once upon a time I would probably would not have written it at all. Back in the old days, I really cared about having other people’s approval. I would have turned myself inside out for it. But not any more. Now I am able to stand up for my own ideas and opinions, and not let other people deflect me away from being myself.

How did I do this? By remembering and practising these ideas:

  • If someone disagrees with you, ask yourself whether they share the same perspective as you. What world view would a person hold to come up with the statement/opinion they just expressed?
  • Listen courteously and sincerely. You might learn something new and useful.
  • Re-examine your own ideas. Based on what you’ve learned about the other person’s ideas and world view, is there anything in your opinion that doesn’t completely stack up? If there is, you may need to change your opinion. But if not, then you don’t need to let that person’s disagreement worry you.

Please note that I’m not advocating ignoring opposing views. What I’m suggesting is that you listen, you assess their ideas, you reassess your ideas, and then take it from there. It isn’t always easy. But I hope you’ll agree that this is a process that not only gives you the framework to stand your ground, but also to have the safety, the humility and the empathy to be yourself and allow other people to do the same.

And that’s all we can ever ask - of ourselves, and of anyone else.