A great number of the discord that we face today across the political isles and in our media are squarely because we’re unable to accept the other person or the other person’s position. We see the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community as bad, because we can’t accept that it’s their life and their choices. The LGBT community fires back, because they can’t understand how the heterosexual community can fail to see people as people first. Whether it’s political candidates or people in your neighborhood, we seem to have lost the fine art of living and letting live.
Understanding and Agreement
We seem to have confused the need for acceptance and understanding with the need to agree with others. We’ve forgotten that we don’t control other people – and we’re not responsible for them. We’ve decided that what is right for us must be right for everyone. We’ve lost our ability to accept that we may not have all the answers, and what we’re doing may not be right for everyone.
The prerequisite to accepting is understanding. Before we can truly accept someone else’s position, we must seek to carefully understand it. However, we’re often blocked by our belief that our approach to life is right. We believe that, to accept someone else, we must agree with the way they’re doing life.
Our belief that we need to agree with other people interferes with our human need to connect and understand other people. If we let go of agreement, which is judgement-based, we can enter the conversation in a way that truly seeks to understand.
What’s Wrong with Understanding
The real problem with an attempt to understand someone else isn’t about them at all. It’s a fear that the other person will change our mind. Our world is built upon our beliefs. If we’re open to understanding the person, then how might that change our beliefs?
Changing your beliefs is scary stuff. The more insecure you are about your current beliefs, the more risk you’re taking on to consider someone else’s beliefs. Paradoxically, the less secure you are in your own beliefs, the less willing you are to explore whether they’re right or not. Instead of filling your time with people who believe differently than you, you fill your time with people who believe like you think you should believe, and you sometimes feel no more certain about those beliefs after you’re there.
Moving to Acceptance
If you can acknowledge there’s something about the other person that makes you feel uneasy – and that uneasiness is your problem to solve – you can begin the journey of accepting the other person. It doesn’t matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, political orientation, or motivations. If you can learn to accept the person for who they are, you’ll find yourself more at ease, they’ll be more at ease, and you’ll be positioned to start the process of negotiating conflict.
Acceptance in Conflict
Acceptance has a lubricating effect in conflict. It reduces the friction between the parties and makes it easier to talk about the key concerns that each side has. Instead of viewing the conflict from a people-oriented perspective, it’s possible to view conflict from the perspective of good people with different perspectives disagreeing. From there, it’s a short walk to get to finding a solution that meets everyone’s needs.