Why you must respect all opinions and beliefs

This past years I’ve felt an increase in the amount of hate people have towards others, it’s almost as if we had forgotten to respect people with different opinions than ours. The society is forcing us to follow certain ideals and is discriminating those who disagree with them. We are slowly losing free speech, so I want to use this article to explain where I believe this hate comes from and help you see how pointless it is to look down on people who think differently.

First, I recommend you read my previous article, where I share some arguments for helping others and explain how that can benefit the world. Both articles are not very related, but they follow the “humane” topic, which is always good as a reminder.

To get started, I would like to share a word that I read on the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.


n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you […]

Maybe you already acknowledged this, or maybe you didn’t, either way, this idea humbles us. We need to remind ourselves that we are not special, in the end, you and I are just one of many humans who are going to exist in history.

Every one of us is living a life, but not everyone is experiencing it the same way. This idea holds true because there are an infinite number of parameters that could alter how we experience the world. You’re already aware of some of them like friends, family, and location, but there are a lot more. For example, mental disorders like schizophrenia, physical conditions like your gender, or even impairments like being blind. These “alterations” are the origin of different perspectives and opinions, basically, they are the root of our uniqueness as individuals.

Think of reality as a piece common to everyone, then each person has an interpretation of it which is highly biased by the “lens” through which we see it. Because of this, even the same event could be experienced differently by two people. Let’s see an example:

Imagine that you and I are facing each other and there is a 6 drawn between us. I ask you which number is between us, and you answer 9. We start fighting because you believe the number is a 9, but I tell you that it’s a 6. See what’s happening? If we omit the stupidity in the example, we can see how both of us are right, but we’re unable to recognize it. We are so confident in our ability to identify numbers that we’re unable to see the stupid argument that we introduced ourselves into. In other words, our ego is not allowing us to see beyond what we experienced. This might seem extreme, but I assure you it happens more often than you think.

Let’s talk about ego, to narrow the scope of this article we’ll say ego is our need to feel important or in this case, to feel that our opinions are important. Let me ask you something. Have you ever responded negatively when hearing an idea that conflicted with your beliefs? If you did so, you’ve experienced how ego blurred your judgment to protect your current beliefs (same as in the 6-9 example). Although this “protection” might seem useless, it serves its purpose. Briefly explained, you need to find a balance between ego and humility:

  • You need ego to feel that your opinions are important and worthy of being shared. Too much ego gives excessive value to your own ideas and difficult recognizing value in others.
  • You need humility to gracefully handle new ideas and different beliefs. Too much humility would make you naive and dependent on what others think, as you don’t value your own ideas enough.

This balance is hard because we are naturally built to see things our way, and, therefore, it takes time to open our minds and respect different ways of thinking. Controlling our ego seems to become harder when it comes to highly opinionated topics like politics. Next time you find yourself in a discussion about one of those topics, try to keep your mind open as you share your opinions. Remind yourself of the 6-9 example, there is no single truth, so both parts could be right. This principle not only applies to our numeric scenario, it applies everywhere. Notice how the concepts of “right and wrong” are not absolute, they are unique for each individual. In other words, depending on what you experienced, some things are going to be true for you and others not. Let’s see another example:

Imagine that tomorrow an alien appears to a friend of yours, and they chat for a while. Later this day, your friend tells you what happened. Most likely, you won’t believe him and would try to convince him that aliens are not real. The thing is, that after seeing and talking with an alien, there’s probably no one who can convince him that they are not real. From that moment, your friend is going to believe in aliens and most people may think he’s crazy, but in reality, he’s just externalizing what he experienced.

Instead of judging people upfront when hearing their opinions, we should try to understand them deeper. We need to practice more empathy. Let’s say empathy is the awareness of the lens through which the other person is seeing reality. In the previous example, empathy is understanding that if you were the one who had the alien experience, you would also defend that aliens are real. This empathy is the base for respecting others and accepting their beliefs, not necessarily because you agree with them, but because understand that their experiences lead to them thinking that way.

Nowadays, I believe our lack of empathy is what starts wars and conflicts around the world. I truly believe that if people noticed how their ego is hindering the exchange of ideas with different types of people, the world would be a better place. Every single new idea that you hear is nourishing you as a person.

Before concluding this post, I want to cut the philosophy and share some practical tips

  • Conversations or debates are not for convincing the other part or proving you’re superior. Their goal is to share ideas, and by being too invested in being right, you’re not allowing the exchange to happen.
  • Stop trying to sell your lifestyle to others. I used to fall into this a lot, and I’m still struggling with it. Basically remind yourself that the routines, products, or whatever that works for you don’t necessarily work on others. Just make the suggestion and if it gets rejected, be cool about it.
  • Listen more actively, don’t think about your response or talk over people, just listen. How are you planning on understanding the other person if you’re not even listening? Actively listening would help you understand the other person, respond better, and have a more fluid conversation.

Thanks for reading. For this article, I’d really like to receive some feedback and hear different perspectives. I really hope this would help people respect others and stop arguing for nothing.

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