I have been blown away recently at how critical we are with each other. “You didn’t handle that well at all.” “Why are people so stupid?” “Look at this moron.” A simple scroll through social media proves that we have become a culture of critics. Even some face-to-face conversations have become confrontational, especially when our opinions don’t match. But, criticism like this does not allow for the acknowledgement that we are all individual people with our own individual viewpoints, and many times, we will not agree.
Very few people like disagreements and confrontation. In fact, high conflict personalities are easy to recognize, and people with these traits are often avoided at all costs. But, what happens when a friend or family member becomes confrontational over wearing face-masks during Coronavirus? Or, you disagree with your closest friend about politics? Why do these people, that typically have our best interests in mind, suddenly become critical and judgmental of our opinion?
Theory – We have a desire to be “right” and anyone who disagrees with us therefore must be wrong.
As children, we are conditioned to “do the right thing” – don’t do drugs, do your homework, get an A on a test. Being right is the equivalent of having value, and being wrong is embarrassing. We are not taught to learn, we are taught to pass tests and do what we are told. It drives a fundamental desire to always need the right answer. But, what happens when there is no right answer?
Life is more than a series of standardized tests to pass. It is composed of a series of lessons where right and wrong do not exist. Politics is a great example. I consider myself a conservative, but that does not mean that I do not care about social issues. Begin a conservative simply means that I do not believe the government should dictate how I feel about social issues. We are all individuals capable of making our own choices. Each of us has had different experiences that frame our world views. I do not judge how you live your life. However, recently, I was called a “moron” and “selfish” for supporting the reopening of the US economy, and the fact that I do not wear a face mask unless required. I was not asked why. I was not asked how the pandemic affected my personal finances. I was not asked how I had been affected both mentally and financially from the lockdowns. My intentions were judged immediately and cast as wrong. There was no dialog about differing points of view. There was only judgement.
How can we disagree without criticism?
There is a saying I have heard both in business as well as my personal life, “sometimes you have to chose being right over being happy.” It is sometimes a choice. But, this phrase infers that we cannot have both, which is wrong. It is imperative though that when we do disagree, we do so with the intention of learning about the other person.
But, if we are conditioned as children in school to always be right, when do we learn how to learn? When do we start to realize that learning is a series of questions?
When we stop asking questions of each other, we stop seeing each other as individuals. When we assume we know the motives behind someone’s actions, we stop treating them as people with feelings and ideas. Attacking each other over different opinions will not bridge gaps, it will only widen them. So, how can we disagree without becoming critical? In the example above, I asked the question, “what makes you feel that way?” I wanted to understand why this person thought I was selfish for wanting to go back to work. That simple question opened a dialog about their fear over bringing the virus home to their family. It also allowed me to explain how anything on my face, including face masks, put me into a full blown, hyper ventilating claustrophobic panic. That simple question, rather than allowing assumptions, opened a conversation about our different viewpoints on this virus.
At the end of the day, understanding our differences helps us realize that we are all different. We all want love and stability. We want to be accepted for who we are as people. Sometimes there is no right or wrong, but a simple question can help you find the wonderful world that exists in between.
How do you deal with your critics? Let me know in the comments. And, don’t forget to like, share and follow!