You don’t always have to respond to every opinion with your own!
My Blogpost yesterday, I have shed my Hindu affiliation to reclaim my right to being just human, elicited a couple of interesting responses. One person felt that I was being “unfair to my roots”. Another felt that I need not necessarily be giving up my Hindu affiliation to reclaim my right to being just human. To both messages, which came on WhatsApp, I just replied with a “:)”!
I have realized that in matters related to personal opinion and preference, a “:)” works best. Ideally, just silence should do. But in a WhatsApp and FB Messenger era, a “:)” works just as well.
Just 10 years ago, I was different. I was always vociferous with my opinion. I remember having an ugly spat some years ago with my school friend at a restaurant, even as a class reunion party was on, when he ridiculed the former Indian Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh as “Maun”mohan Singh! I have often had abrasive and violent run-ins with my mother over fighting her opinions. And at other times I have cooked within myself when I have not been able to express my opinion to someone – either because I feared the consequences of saying what I felt or I did not want to hurt them with my views.
But the past decade has taught me a valuable Life lesson. Which is to respect the right that others have to their opinion. I have learnt that just as I am entitled to my opinion others are too. While on the one side I now realize that I need not always be right, on the other, I see great value in not even wanting to be seen as right – even if there is ample opportunity to prove my point of view.
This does not mean that you must not express yourself. Of course, you can and you must. You must say what’s on your mind and say it straight – without mincing words. But any counter to your view does not necessarily merit a rejoinder. I feel that just remaining silent in response to another’s opinion is a very intelligent response. And, as in the case of responses to my Blogpost yesterday, if a “:)” can embellish the silence, all the better!
Here’s a lesser known secret to intelligent living.
A young lady got in touch with me. She said she was living-in with her best friend. But on the subject of getting married and having children, the couple, she informed, were in complete disagreement. “We love each other dearly. We like being in each other’s presence and we miss each other when we are not together. Where we differ is on getting married and having children. He wants to marry, he wants children and I don’t want either. Is it okay for me to disagree with him on something as important as that and still love him,” she asked.
I told the lady that it is possible and fine to differ with someone on an opinion or issue and still get along with that person. Even so, she must consider the long-term aspirations of her partner in the backdrop of their relationship – we will discuss that part in a bit.
First, let us talk about disagreeing with someone on an issue and still having a friendship, still loving that someone. I personally feel it is definitely okay to be that way. This is not about being hypocritical or practicing double-standards. This is a mature way of learning to separate issues from people.
It is definitely not easy to start with. But when you view any situation closely, you will find that it is imminently possible to deal with it dispassionately, which is always the best way too! What happens though is when we have a difference of opinion with someone, we try to avoid or even reject that person. We start finding newer flaws with that person in order to magnify and justify our difference of opinion. So, for instance, say you disagree with your friend’s political views. And you get into a strong argument with that friend. Instead of shaking hands with that friend at the end of a stimulating discussion, you choose to just walk away. The next time you meet that friend, you are carrying the baggage of the last experience and you begin to wonder why he or she is dressed the way they are. You start justifying your last opinion of this person with a fresh sentiment saying this person does not even know how to be properly groomed. And so this ruinous cycle of ‘building a case’ to isolate the person itself, not just the views, begins. It happens subconsciously. But it happens all the time in most relationships we have.
Pause for a moment now. Think of all the situations when you have disagreed with people in the last week. Just in the last 7 days. Review your sentiments, even the ones you may have not expressed but experienced in your mind, of these people. Objectively enlist the number of times you were on the ‘building a case’ mode with these people. To your surprise, in each of the instances when you disagreed on an issue, you have subconsciously, taken the route to justify and magnify the difference of opinion, often beyond the issue itself. You will be surprised how habituated you are to this practice.
We must break free from this thinking though. Three simple steps may be helpful here: 1. Acknowledge that each one is entitled to their opinion 2. If you disagree remember always that the disagreement is with the issue, the opinion, never with the person 3. Conclude each disagreement session with a smile and say clearly, passionately, that you hope to find a meeting ground sometime soon on this issue! Apply this to every relationship you have and to every episode where you have felt or expressed disagreement. Start with your list of last week and work back, ensuring also, that going forward you will not let any new disagreements assume demonic, irrevocable proportions.
In the lady’s specific case, the difference of opinion is not over political ideology or food preferences or movie options or a dressing sense. It is not even about marriage; disagreeing over that, in my view, can be managed and overcome. It is about something very special, very personal – the desire to have children. So, in case she maintains her stand while her partner still nurtures the aspiration to have children, at some point, their disagreement may lead to a separation. And there’s a learning here for all of us – if your disagreement is over something so fundamental that it may lead to you separating from the person you are disagreeing with, then accept the outcome gracefully. Don’t sweat over it – after all, it was your choice to disagree, so please respect the other person’s choice to move on.
The key point I am making here is that you can surely disagree with someone without being disagreeable to them and without feeling miserable yourself. Therein lies a lesser known secret to intelligent living!
In today’s Vlog, I share from personal experience how Life has cut me down to size and has humbled me. Clinging on to things, opinions and even ego, I have realized, is a sure cause for misery.
View time: 3:19 minutes
Criticism can be debilitating only if you don’t know how to handle it.
I recently found my friend sparring animatedly with his friend over a Facebook post. It was a political stand my friend had taken on a post on his Wall. And his friend was rabid, scathing and unforgiving of my friend’s stance. My friend argued tooth and nail. But soon the conversation turned into a verbal slugfest and ended with my friend unfriending and blocking his ‘friend’ on Facebook.
I am sure the disagreement between the two gentlemen could have been handled differently. But, well, that’s the way it was meant to be!
I wonder why people find it difficult to let others have their opinions. In fact, the key to inner peace is to respect another’s opinion – because it belongs to them and they are entitled to it, just as you are entitled to yours! Important, your desire to correct another’s opinion or to deny them their right to have one can cause you untold suffering!
Vaani and I are often at the receiving end of criticism or unsolicited opinion on how we must be leading our lives. Particularly after they have read my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal or have heard my Talk (of the same name), some people approach us saying they differ with us. They disapprove of the choices we have made. And they are open about what they feel. But both Vaani and I have learnt to receive public opinion with gratitude and detachment.
We recognize that when you go out there and share your Life – or views – in public, you are essentially inviting people to look at you. Now, when you extend such an invitation, chances are people looking at you, listening to you, or hearing your story, will have an opinion about you. And they make their opinion known. When such opinion is in sync with your expectations, you call it praise. You love it then. But the moment an opinion doesn’t fit into your scheme of things, you dub it as criticism and you loathe it. We have learnt not to get carried away with any sentiment – with praise or with critique or with criticism.
We believe that the best way to deal with criticism is to deal with like hot candle wax. First allow it to dry up. It is a lot easier to discard it and get it out of your system when it has become cold and stale. So, don’t respond. Just let the other person express themselves, you remain unresponsive. Just let the opinion be what it is – a mere opinion. Second, appreciate where the person who is critical of your actions is coming from. Even if the person is unjustified, rude, violent or cruel, understand that that person has a right to her or his view, to their opinion. It belongs to that person and does not belong to you __ even if it is about you. Third, understand the message that is being conveyed and see if you can learn from what is being said. Train your mind to respond with an exclamation__from awe, from wonder, from amazement__ that says “Is that so?” instead of responding with anger and violence while asking “How dare you?” Know that when you, even if it is only in your mind, question the other person’s right to opinionate, criticize, it is really your ego which is leading you. So, refuse to follow it; turn your attention away.
Learn to treat the whole experience like a game. Tell yourself: “Hey! Watch out! This situation, this comment, this person is provoking me. And my mind is urging me to fall prey, to succumb. Let me escape!” And each time you win, punch your fist up like a champion will. When you do succumb, when you do get dragged into the situation and when you emerge from it bruised and grieving, remind yourself to not fall prey again. Simple.
Like with all other games you have learned to play in Life, you get better and better at dealing with criticism with practice. Then, over a period of time, you will have mastered the art of being unmoved. All criticism, then, will just fall off you, unstuck, even when it is thrown at you!!