Resident rainbow councillor Elijah Luke Michel gives his take on healthy communication, and how to avoid arguments with people whose opinions are different to our own.
Every human on the planet is born unique – even identical twins have their own fingerprints – so how do we learn to relate with those who have differing views when it comes to our own deepest values and beliefs? Surprisingly enough, it’s not difficult – but we need to remember it goes both ways: we must be willing to open our minds and hearts towards others if we expect the same in return. So…
Listen: There’s nothing more frustrating than not feeling heard. Listen not only with your ears but with your mind. What vocal intonations are you hearing? Are they raising their voice (losing control or not feeling heard) or keeping it cool, calm and collected? Are you really hearing their heart as they speak or are you planning your response? If someone is talking down to you there is no point continuing the conversation, regardless of the issue.
Observe: 93% of human communication is body language. In today’s technology-based society a lot more communication is done online as opposed to face-to-face. This can often lead to misunderstanding. When it comes to having discussions around topics that affect us deeply it is wiser to arrange a personal connection (if you can’t meet up in the flesh, use something like Skype) so you can be as fully informed as possible as to how the other person is feeling.
Validate: One of the most important human needs after the basics (food, water, shelter, belonging and acceptance) is validation – to know that your opinions are valid regardless of whether they are agreed upon. Some phrases you may use are: I hear where you’re coming from… I can see why you think that way… You did the best you could in those circumstances… I understand you were raised that way… their views, regardless of how obscure they may seem to you, are valid and true for them.
Encourage: No-one likes to be told what to do. If you’re wanting others to open their minds towards your views and beliefs, try encouraging them to do so by sharing links to websites, blogs or videos that educate them as opposed to dis them or their views. If Grandma is finding it hard to get her head around homosexuality because it was illegal for most of her lifetime, share scientific research that shows our orientation is determined in the womb instead of telling Grandma she’s a prude.
We must remember we can’t – nor should we try to – change another’s opinions without first hearing them fully, watching for non-verbal cues to assess their true feelings, reminding them their opinions are valid given what has gone on before for them, and encouraging them to educate themselves further on the topic at hand – as you will too.
Go with love.