Charla Huber: Differences of opinion are healthy, and an opportunity to grow

I often receive emails from readers thanking me for my columns and sharing their own stories that relate to the perspectives and experiences that I have shared.

Writing is a solitary act, and when I hear from readers, it helps me feel connected to the community. I am connecting with people I’ve never met before and there’s something really special about that, especially in this time of isolation.

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Nearly a year into this pandemic, a lot of us are frustrated and sometimes that leads to less-than-stellar communication. In a time when patience and pleasantries are wearing thin, hearing kind words from strangers who appreciate what I do is refreshing. I want to say “Thank you.”

Kind emails from people encourage me to be kinder. These messages of support have been inspiring me to pass on kindness to others throughout my days.

Not all emails I receive are positive, and that’s OK, too. When I was a newspaper reporter and received negative emails, I took it far more personally because I thought people were criticizing my work.

When someone disagrees with an opinion column, it’s different. I am a firm believer that a difference of opinion is healthy and keeps things interesting.

We’ve all heard the saying “never discuss politics or religion.” I understand its ­premise, but I enjoy hearing about people’s religious and political views, as long as it is about sharing and not trying to convert me.

I am always so curious about how people think and what people value. I like learning about views that I don’t have, and getting insight into why people are the way they are. Taking the time to learn and listen from ­others allows us to peek through a little ­window into their lives. That window helps us understand people.

There are many times I’ve heard ­people express a view I don’t have. That can spark me to rethink or reanalyze things, and ­ultimately can change my opinion or approach. I am always interested in being better.

When someone reacts better to conflict, disappointment or anger than me, I like to take notes. If you’ve ever watched a speech of a defeated incumbent on election night, you’ll know what I mean. They usually start with “The people have spoken…” and then follow with some humble words and wishing the elected individual the best.

We all know the defeated incumbent wanted to retain their position and believed they would have done a good job, but they can honour the fact that voters had a ­different view. Unfortunately, in the recent election south of the border, we didn’t get to see that level of professionalism.

A difference of opinion gets unhealthy when people devote far too much time trying to get people to agree with them, rather than just listening.

Not everyone needs to agree with us, and we don’t need to agree with them. We can honour our differences and be kind at the same time. Success isn’t about everyone thinking the same thing. It’s about understanding people.

During my master’s degree, I participated in a Communities of Practice, where a group of individuals shared and discussed ideas on a specific topic. In one such discussion, I was the lone wolf in my opinion — no one agreed with me.

We had a mature discussion, and it enabled me to see why people didn’t agree with me, even though my opinion never changed. Learning to see how other people viewed the situation was far more valuable than having everyone tell me I was right.

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