On Seeking Understanding

On Seeking Understanding

The world is imperfect. Nothing is guaranteed in life. We can get as angry as we want when life doesn’t go our way, but we cannot control the circumstances that life gives us. We can only control what we think, how we act, and how we react to what life gives us. We cannot pass laws to make life what we want and force others to think the way we want them to think without creating division and animosity.

Dale Carnegie in his books “How to Win Friends & Influence People” lays out a great blueprint for influencing others, not through force, but through humility and understanding. In today’s world we would rather force others to act and believe as we think they should, rather than taking responsibility for our own actions and using influence to bring about the world we wish to live in.

In our modern society where technology allows us to shut out any opinion we don’t agree with and gives us the ability to seek out only those sources of opinion that echo our own beliefs, we have lost the ability to see life through a differing lens. We fail to see things from different perspectives and have compassion and understanding.

Having compassion and understanding for other perspectives does not mean agreeing with, or accepting them uncritically. It means that we seek to understand opinions different than our own so that we can find common ground that we can then use to move forward.

We are all human beings. We all want to be happy and not suffer. We all want to be comfortable and feel a sense of self-worth and meaning in our lives. Most people have the best of intentions in what they do and what they believe. There are few truly evil people in the world.

If we kept these truths at the front of our minds when dealing with other people and engaging in discussions with others, it would allow us to have more compassion and empathy for those we disagree with. It would allow us to recognize the commonality we share and find ways to move forward on common goals, rather than coming into conflict and creating yet more distance and distraction in our society.

What makes our world a wonderful and interesting place is the fact that there are very few right ways to get things done. There is a myriad of different right ways to accomplish a goal and no one person has all the right answers. The human experience is rich because of the diversity of opinions and ideas. If we only took the time, not to accept or force, but to understand and find common ground we would find the world more peaceful, and our experience with it much more enjoyable.

Next time you find yourself in conflict with someone try the following:
1) Don’t argue – yes you have a choice.
2) Seek to understand – just stop and listen.
3) Consider thoughtfully the other persons point of view before responding.
4) Respond first to areas of common interest.
5) Present your point of view in a non-threatening way.
6) Agree to move forward where there is commonality and allow disagreements to be set aside.

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