There are certain times when tensions that arise from differing opinions seem more prevalent. Even when it's not an election season or when the news is not full of chaos, though, you are likely to encounter people with whom you fundamentally disagree on many issues. If you work in your community, you likely volunteer with people of various faiths and creeds. You may even experience significant differences in worldviews with people in your own family.
However, that doesn't mean that good, loving communication isn't possible in these situations. Finding common ground with those who are not like you can be a mutually rewarding experience. Once you start using the following guidelines, you may be surprised how quickly they become natural.
Start With Listening
Rather than approaching conversations with those with whom you know you don't see eye to eye with apprehension, consider these talks as opportunities to learn more about them. The best conversations happen between people who both seek to understand more than to be understood. While you can't control the other person's behavior, you can make your expectations clear by committing to being a good listener. Redefine your goal for discussions in which your opinions are different. When you stop trying to win the argument and focus on how the other person arrived at his or her conclusions, what you take away from the interaction is much more valuable than being right. You gain a better understanding of the other person's heart and learn more about his or her values, some of which you probably have in common.
Recognize Shared Values
A vital part of healthy conflict resolution is identifying points of agreement. Even when you're not actively engaged in conflict, however, the overall tone of conversations with those whom you perceive as different from you can still feel contentious. One way to combat this tension is through recognizing values that you have in common. For example, people of other faiths likely share your strong commitments to justice, love, mercy, kindness and temperance. They may seek to live out those values in different ways, but their actions are easier to understand and accept when you realize that you agree on the underlying motivations that guide them. Finding shared values also helps you collaborate to create an action plan that fulfills common goals.
Focus on Collaboration
Plans for progress are frequently delayed or may even be thwarted indefinitely when those involved cannot overcome their differences. One of the main reasons this happens is that all parties tend to come to the table with plans already in mind. The fewer preconceived notions you bring into these conversations, however, the better you are able to stay open to new ideas. Rather than risk the likelihood that the discussion will simply dissolve into arguing about whose option is best, approach each session with the expectation that you will be coming up with a workable plan together. The benefit of collaborating to create a mutually agreeable plan is that it has built-in checkpoints for ensuring that everyone's voice is heard during every step of the process. It is much easier to find a solution that satisfies everyone involved when you don't have to waste time breaking apart unsatisfactory portions of opposing plans.
Not many people actually enjoy conflict. Even when you disagree with someone, though, it is possible to discuss your opposing viewpoints with both courage and compassion. Listening to understand gives you a basis for keeping lines of communication open, and finding values you share helps you create real solutions that work out well for everyone involved. Finding common ground is not always easy, but it is worth the time and effort you put into it.