IBM vs. Mac? Cat person or dog person? Democrat, Republican or Independent?
How many times do we fail to “back off” on an opinion, comment, or even our own food, computer or pet preferences, simply because we equate “backing off” with “backing down”? How many situations blow up and cause all involved parties to lose due to their respective efforts to win and avoid “losing face”? Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve had sleepless nights, excessive worry, agitation, and fear – all due to someone’s (another person’s or your own) need to win at all costs?
Contrary to popular belief, allowing another person to have their own opinion, in other words, showing them respect by backing off and realizing they are entitled to that opinion, is not the same as backing down and changing our own. Actually, we should all practice being open-minded enough to consider viewpoints that differ from ours and see if they might offer enlightenment. They may cause us to change our minds, or they may actually strengthen our own position… but the worst thing we can do is to close our mind and refuse to show respect to those who hold other opinions.
This situation is difficult enough in our personal lives, but when we allow disrespectful interactions to occur at work, it damages our work relationships, as well as our work product and work environment, reducing the effectiveness of everyone there if allowed to become widespread and damaging enough.
So, instead of arguing our opinions “to the death” at all costs, can we agree to:
- Pick our battles: don’t argue every point, simply because there’s a difference of opinion. Does it really matter if they like Mac and we like IBM – or vice versa? Is it worth the aggravation all parties will feel by becoming involved in unnecessary arguments? If it’s small – who cares? Let them have their opinion and let’s all just get along. After all, just allowing someone to have an opinion doesn’t mean you agree with it! It just means you respect their right to have it.
- When the matter is important enough, remember that regardless of how “wrong” they are (said “tongue-in-cheek”), remember that they have as much right to their opinion as you do to yours. Remain respectful as you listen to their position and explain yours. If you show respect during a disagreement, the other party will be more willing to listen and reciprocate with respect, enabling a possible learning experience rather than just a debilitating exercise in frustration!
- If it becomes apparent (which it rather quickly will, if this is the case) that you will not see eye-to-eye on the issue, find a way to “agree to disagree”, find a compromise that poses a solution where you can both “win”, and move on.
There are many ways to “skin a cat” (and no, I don’t mean literally!). So, let’s remember that we’re not put on this earth to “put other people in their place” or to “slam them down so hard that they stay there” simply because their opinion differs from ours. Our goal in life should not be to belittle, embarrass or berate others. It should be to lift others up, encourage them, and make them feel valued, as we create a better world together.
Our world – and our workplaces – will become a much bigger WOWplace if we just keep in mind how we feel when others berate us, and stop equating backing off out of respect for others’ opinions with backing down and losing face with regard to our own.