Communication Tips: How to Discuss Your Differences of Opinions, Beliefs, and Ideals with Others
Today I'm sharing 10 tips that will help us improve our communication skills.
I feel that this year we've experienced more division as a whole do to different political views, religious beliefs, social issues, and cultural aspects, aside from lockdown and other reasons. Although that's a complex subject, I want to focus on the communication side of it. I don’t think it relies solemnly on the fact that we think differently, but that we don’t know how to discuss our differences in a healthy way.
As a communication major, the way we communicate and how we can become better communicators is important to me and it should be to all of us. So, in hopes of improving our communication skills, here are 10 tips that can help us get started.
1. Converse to learn and understand
Oftentimes, when we have conversations with people with different views, we seek to convince them to think like we do because we believe that “our way is the right way.” So, Instead of a conversation, we give them a lecture. However, just as we want to be heard and respected, we must be willing to do the same with others. It’s not our place to impose our views on other people. Instead, we should aim to understand and learn from each other’s point of view.
2. Keep an open mind
Having beliefs, values, and ideals is great. Fighting for what you believe in is fantastic. Sharing with others what you know and what your views are is all well and good. But, keeping an open mind definitely changes the game. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re trading in your beliefs. It means that you’re willing to listen and reflect upon the other person's viewpoints without taking things personally or feeling attacked.
Do you think you’re a good listener? Let’s see. When you’re discussing your differences with others, do you interrupt them frequently to get your point across or to talk about you? While they're talking, do you think about what you’re going to respond back? Are you distracted while the other person is speaking? If your answer was “yes” to most of these questions, becoming a better listener is something you might need to work on.
Listening requires genuine interest, commitment, attention, and to be fully present in the conversation.
4. Check in and ask open-ended questions
Checking in means repeating what the other person is saying or asking questions to make sure you’re understanding them. That can look like: “What I’m hearing is…” “What I’m understanding is…” “Let me be sure I’m understanding you correctly…” At the same time, asking open-ended questions gives the other person an opportunity to explain themselves further and it allows you to learn more about their views and why they think the way they do.
5. Do not generalize
When we generalize we assume that every person within a group is the same, which is neither true, nor fair. Most of those assumptions are based on stereotypes, prejudices, social constructs, and perceptions, but they aren't universal truths. Not everyone is the same regardless of their culture, race, sexual orientation, religious/spiritual beliefs, political views, etc. We should always keep that in mind. Avoid speaking to, about, or on behalf of an entire group or community regardless if you're part of it or not.
Related article: 8 Tips To Be a Better Communicator
6. Monitor your words
When it comes to sensitive topics such as politics, religion, and culture think about what you're going to say and how you’re going to say it. When we feel passionate about a topic, many of us tend to disregard the other person by the words, mostly adverbs and adjectives, that we use, which can be disrespectful, diminishing and offensive. Not to mention, when we're heated up, we may use stronger words. That can cut the lines of communication because we may become defensive and, instead of discussing our differences, we're defending our views.
7. Use I-statements
Using I-statements means that you speak from your point of view, your experiences, your knowledge, and your feelings, Psychology Today offers the following I-statements: I feel, I believe, I think, I have read, and I learned which we can use rather than speaking has if our viewpoints were absolute and universal. By using I-statements you’re also preventing yourself from generalizing. Below there's an example.
8. Remain calm
It’s very easy to get headed up when we see or hear things that go against what we strongly believe to be right and true. As a result, our attitude, language, and tone changes and it can lead into nasty arguments rather than a healthy discussion. Try to remain calm and empathetic. Breath and remember to listen without judgement. That also gives you time to process the information and organize your thoughts. Don’t let your emotions get in the way of a productive conversation.
9. Find a common ground
Even when there are many differences, there’s always something that you'll have in common with the person you're talking to, and that’s good to point out.
On an episode of one of my favorite tv shows, The Bold Type, a conservative, republican lawyer named Ava was asked why she agreed to be on Kat’s podcast, who’s an openly bisexual, liberal activist, since they are polar opposites. Ava responded by saying that they both wanted to make the world a better place and, even though their ways of getting there are different, they’re both striving towards the same goal. That was their common ground. They were able to have a successful conversation about politics, social issues, and even their sexualities because they respected and validated each other’s viewpoints, while acknowledging their similarities (like Ava being part of the LGBTQ+ community as well as Kat).
10. Agree to disagree
Taking the previews example, Kat and Ava knew where each other stood, but that didn't make them enemies. They accepted and respected each other, while being open to learn more.
Your feelings, thoughts, beliefs, views, and opinions are not superior or more important than anyone else’s. We’re all unique individuals with different upbringings, education, backgrounds, culture, and life experiences that have shaped the person we are and they're all valid. Besides, there's always room for growth and improvement, and learning how to talk about our differences is a start.
I strongly encourage you to be more mindful and practice becoming a better communicator by applying these tips in your conversations. When we become better communicators, we treat others better, thus creating less division and more respect.
Have a great week, friends!
The majority of the information in this blog post is based on Julia T. Wood's book, Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters.