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Rachel Responds

Controversial beliefs affect students

Rachel Woodman

March 30, 2012

Barnabus Flemming asks: “What do you do when someone spews their beliefs in your face?” Your day starts off on the right side of the bed, you’ve finally remembered to put your pants on one leg at a time, you woke up early enough to both shower and put on a fresh set of clothes, and you’ve finally hunkered down to your ironic bowl of Trix cereal. Then it starts.

Maybe it starts from the room over, table over, or from the friend across from you, but it starts. The tumbling of opinionated words sometimes mixed with facts and other times entirely free of them.

Maybe you add your own thoughts or perhaps you’ve been pulled in for your input but somehow you’ve gone from perfect morning to perfect headache. For the best way to check yourself before you wreck yourself read on.

Everyone has likely heard the term “deal breaker” in reference to relationships. Everyone has certain ideals they need in their significant other. Once they realize that other person doesn’t have those ideals then the relationship needs to end.

However, deal breakers don’t exist in relationships alone, they can also exist in friendships. If one or both parties hold a strong opinion about a certain topic and cannot accept a differing opinion, then this can end a friendship. If that person works with you, has class with you, or lives with you that can pose a real problem.

The best thing to do is avoid highly controversial topics such as religion, politics, abortion or anything else you or the other party have strong feelings about if you know the conversation will result in an argument.

In Dealing With Different Types of People, Tejvan said, “There are few things in life really worth arguing about, so just avoid bringing up the topics that they will give their interminable lectures on. You are probably not going to be able to change their mind directly.” You must accept that some opinions cannot be changed.

Why are opinionated people so quick to jump down your throat? In Conversing with Highly Opinionated People, Loren Ekroth, Ph.D., said, “A large part of the problem in talking with opinionators is that so many of them are personally identified with their opinions (or dogmas and ideologies.) When they discover that your opinion is different from theirs, they may personally feel challenged, as if you are questioning their intelligence or character.”

Opinionated people view your disagreement with their opinion as if you are beginning an argument and doubting their intelligence. Be sure to never talk down to anyone when they express their opinion. Doing so will only inflame the situation.

For you to clash with an opinionated person it’s quite likely that this person thinks you are highly opinionated yourself. To ensure that you are not perceived this way remember to listen before speaking.

Larry Barkan, author of conflictresolution.net, said that aggression begets aggression and listening encourages listening. He suggests listening to the entirety of the opposing view with the intention to agree. By “agree”, he means to gather enough information to understand where that person is coming from and why they feel as they do.

After this, agree with the person’s reasoning and then state your opinion. Speaking with someone with this level of respect is the best way to turn what could be an argument into a conversation.

So when your morning breakfast, your class, your walk, your work, or your sports talk gets interrupted with a controversial topic, try first to change the subject and secondly to actively listen before responding.

Ensuring that you are not acting as opinionated as the opinionator themselves is the only way to ensure respect and grace in this situation. Happy conversing and may the “odds be ever in your favor.”

Rachel Woodman is a senior majoring in marketing communications and minoring in journalism. She loves to work hard, play hard, and use clichés! Look for her Facebook page “Rachel Responds” and email her your questions or topic ideas to QuestionsForRachel@live.com.