As JWs we were all forced to have the same religious, moral, and political views. When we leave the religion we grow and our beliefs start to diversify. You may have encountered individuals who now are passionate about something that you are very passionately in disagreement with. How can we handle these disagreements while maintaining the diversity of beliefs in our XJW community?
As mentioned above you will encounter fellow XJWs and others who hold different opinions than you and disagreements will occur. Psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D recommends 10 tips that can help XJWs communicate better when disagreements arise.
1. Value the diversity of opinions. We benefit from sharing different opinions and feel more connected to society as a whole when we do so. When we feel forced to have the same opinions on topics any disagreements will be difficult to manage.
2. Listen with an open mind. Being able to entertain an idea without accepting it is sometimes considered to be a sign of being well educated. Being able to learn from others that you disagree with is part of what makes healthy relationships with others.
3. Can you justify your own opinion? If you present an opinion that you cannot defend then you will likely become defensive and hostile when someone points out flaws in your argument. Don’t voice basely opinions. You’re only setting yourself up to be criticized and this may cause hurt feelings and damaged relationships.
4. Keep your emotions in check when the conversation gets intense. One element of valuing the diversity of opinions that we are now able to possess is by not losing it emotionally when someone disagrees with us. When we let our emotions run wild they will impair our ability to think and reason. Being in an agitated emotional state will cause us to say things we don’t mean and cause damage to our relationships. If we feel ourselves getting out of control then it might be best to step away while we regain our emotional composure.
5. Finding common ground. As JWs we were taught to find common ground with the people we were preaching too. This same concept applies here. Although it may be challenging to agree with someone who disagrees with us we need to look for what we have in common regarding the subject. We need to appreciate the gray areas and the commonalities we have.
6. Don’t involve others. Don’t needlessly involve other people in the disagreement. Keep focused on yourself, your perspective, and your experience.
7. Avoid personal attacks. Insulting and attacking a person for personal qualities does nothing to add to the conversation or support your argument. Don’t do it. Similarly, avoid name calling and labeling people.
8. Laugh. Having a sense of humor can help a lot when having disagreements. You dont’t need to give up your opinion to have a sense of humor. As XJWs we tend to take everything very seriously. We treat everything like its life or death. Examine the situation to see if you can find anything to laugh about. Laughing is also powerfully therapeutic.
9. Attempt to change the other person perspective but stop if it’s not working. We all know that at some point in a conversation there will be no convincing the other person. If this happens then its best to change the subject to something that you have in common.
10. Double down on the positive feelings you have with respect to the other person. When we have strong relationships they will survive disagreements and difficulties. By having an open mind and respect for others we can continue to have relationships despite our growing and changing beliefs. We can show respect for our friends by giving them space to grow and heal just as we need to do.
Lupton, R., & Thornton, J. (2016). Disagreement, diversity, and participation: Examining the properties of several measures of political discussion network characteristics. Political Behavior, doi:10.1007/s11109-016-9371-7
Whitbourne, S.K. (2016, November 22) 10 tips for talking to people you can’t agree with. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201611/10-tips-talking-people-you-cant-agree