How often do you stand up for something that you believe to be true even in the face of disagreement or opposing views or opinions? It can feel challenging, scary and confronting so we may choose to avoid such situations, say nothing or just agree with the other party and go along to get along and not rock the boat, but then what? Any of these can leave us feeling resentful, edgy or disappointed in ourselves that we didn’t what say we truly felt to.
What stops us? There are many possible reasons for this and I’ve offered four here you may recognise in yourself or others.
Fear of conflict. The word conflict conjures images and feelings for all of us but at its core it is simply a difference of opinion; I say yes you say no, we’re in conflict. If we’re honest, it’s more likely that we believe we don’t have the skills, experience or confidence to deal with it effectively, so we avoid or dance around it. It’s human to avoid anything that feels like conflict because the mind and body read it as a threat and, as a result you may engage ie fight (some love to!) or flee (run away, hide, ignore), freeze (say and do nothing in the moment) or appease and back off.
Personality. Our personality ‘preferences’ and ‘differences’ are one aspect of what can impact our communication, decision-making and ability to manage conflict. An ‘introvert who prefers to process information internally, may bottle up their feelings or opinions and ruminate on them but never actually say anything. An ‘extravert’ who prefers to process information externally may say exactly what’s on their mind with unintended consequences!
Other aspects that may add to the disagreement and tension are being more comfortable with traditions, facts and the known world vs preferring concepts, theories and future possibilities. Or being very matter of fact and analytical about a decision vs sensitive to the feelings of and impact of that decision on others. Any of these opposites can feel challenging but they are just differences.
Experience. Life is a great teacher, provided we learn from the lessons offered and apply the learning but sometimes we aren’t offered the lessons we need. For example, If we are raised in an environment where everyone is very polite and big issues or problems are buried, denied or not discussed then that is how we are likely to approach life when we grow up. Or we may come from an era or environment where children were ‘seen and not heard’ and speaking up about anything was frowned upon or we were punished for it. As a result, in a group or relationship where ‘robust’ conversations, debate and expressing opinions are normal and expected, we may feel anxious, overwhelmed and uncertain of offering a different view.
Not enough information. We all have our favourite topics, areas of knowledge or expertise that we feel confident to talk about at times and when it comes to other areas, we may have nothing to contribute. I remember Nick asking me at one point what I thought about xyz situation and I answered that I didn’t know enough about it to have an opinion (which may well have been politics!), and that surprised him. I may be one of the few, but I don’t like to pretend I know or have any insight into a subject when I haven’t read about or come across it before and I own my lack of knowledge or insight. No-one can know everything, and some topics are simply not of interest.
In fact it’s ok not to have an opinion or, if you do, to not voice it. For me, being more introvert by nature means I often keep my opinions to myself unless and until someone else’s view oversteps my boundaries or challenges my personal values and standards; then you’ll definitely hear from me … respectfully!
Overall, it may just be that we are assuming the worst and believing that our disagreeing with someone will cause a significant reaction and push back. It may or it may not but you don’t need to react to their reaction.
These are just four potential reasons, all of which I can relate to and you may well have others but I’m learning to be seen and heard much more these days because I realise the assumptions that can be made by others when I don’t.
It’s vital to have different opinions and viewpoints about all manner of things in order to challenge our own and others’ thinking, biases and perspectives at times. We all need to feel seen and for our voice to be heard throughout life and when that is delivered and received with respect and an open heart and without judgment, then daring to disagree can become natural and healthy.