Communication is an extremely important aspect of our everyday lives that is so easy to overlook. Whether you are in conversation with coworkers, with friends and acquaintances, or with your family members, practicing strong and honest communication is a key player in fostering good relationships.
Lately, it seems there are a slew of issues in the news that create divides between peers and loved ones. Politics and topical issues have a tendency of polarizing people who discuss them – and even sparking animosity and irritation.
At the Dignity & Respect Campaign, we know how important certain issues might be to you. We believe that everyone is entitled to their opinions and feelings, but we also believe in acceptance – which means respecting others’ opinions and feelings, even if they differ from yours. This concept corresponds directly with the Fourth pillar of our 7 Pillars: Finding Common Ground. This model for behavior focuses on the ability to work through differences and gain agreement, while maintaining dignity and respect. To help you better understand this concept, and maybe even work through some ways to foster it, we’ve created a list of helpful tips for you:
Practice active listening. When you are in conversation with someone, regardless of whether the topic is a heated one or not, it’s a good habit to practice active listening. This means to be intentional about listening and make sure you are giving your full attention to the speaker. Also be sure to listen without interruption, and provide feedback to the speaker. Let him/her know what you heard so you can clear up any misunderstandings right away before you contribute to the conversation.
Be self aware. Understand how your culture and background shape you. Understand the differences between you and the person you are communicating with. For the most part, misunderstandings between people of different cultures, generations, or backgrounds occur not because of what was said, but because of how one party said it. The best way to stop these mishaps from happening is to not assume sameness, and not assume that the other party immediately understands what you mean. Take the time to get on the same page.
Disagree. Conversations are not a game that you play. The point in a discussion is not to win – there is no right or wrong when it comes to opinions. It is very important to remember this, and especially important to remember that it is not your job to make someone agree with you. This is a key component in respect. It is okay to disagree. The purpose of conversing is to learn from someone else – not to sway them to believe what you believe. Hopefully, they can also learn from you.
These helpful tips can go a long way in creating healthy and respectful conversations. The more we effectively communicate with one another – even on sensitive issues – the more we can acknowledge our differences and promote acceptance of those differences.