A Step by Step Guide for talking about your Beliefs.
I have always been a fairly opinionated person, I basically came out of the womb with a plethora of opinions and ideas on a range of different topics. However, as I began to get older, I found myself becoming a lot more uncertain when it came to voicing these opinions out loud; partly because I was afraid of the confrontation that could ensue when discussing the sensitive subject matter, and partly because I felt that I would be unable to correctly articulate my beliefs. However, practice does, in fact, make perfect, and as I’ve gotten older, I have become more comfortable in myself and my views. Though any form of discussion and confrontation still remains inherently intimidating, verbal sparring has become somewhat of a forte of mine and has been used not only as a means to share my own views and to feel more comfortable in them but has also helped me develop my opinions. This was achieved by adhering to a few simple steps.
It is important to trust your own voice. Oftentimes, you’re made to think that because of things like your age, your social standing, your gender identity and lots of other variables, that your opinions are of lesser worth. This is not the case. Just look around you. Some of the most prominent authority figures around you are promoting things such as bigotry and hatred so your views are often times definitely more progressive and accepting than theirs. It’s so much easier to stand behind your convictions in the comfort of your bedroom at home, but when it comes to expressing these convictions out loud, it’s easy to find yourself a little weak at the knees. This is especially prevalent in the face of people you may deem to be of superior knowledge and understanding. You may feel yourself losing confidence in your views before your discussion even begins. It’s important though to stand behind what you believe in and not allow this to intimidate you. Your beliefs are valid and you can be providing a new and different perspective that the other person may not have considered especially if your beliefs have been shaped by your own personal life experience.
2. Learning to Listen!
We have probably all heard the age-old phrase: “There is a distinctive difference between hearing and listening.” This distinction always becomes majorly apparent when facilitating conversation with people about your beliefs. When referring to something you’re evidently invested in, it’s often easy to fall victim to ‘word vomit’, where you have so much to say and are desperate to use this arena to say as much as it as you can. You’ve got such a barrage of statistics, scholarly articles, and facts to cite that you end up spending 80% of the discussion formulating your retort and pay little heed to what the other person is saying. It’s even easier to completely zone out when you find yourself vehemently disagreeing with what the other person is saying when all that’s going on in your head is how so absolutely wrong the other person is. Ultimately, by doing this, you’ll miss every other sentence ready to tear down their entire argument when it’s your turn to speak. It’s important to note, however, that a healthy discussion isn’t about who can fling around the wittiest retorts at the fastest speed. It’s also hypocritical to expect the other person to listen to your worldview if you’re not paying them the same courtesy. It’s important to actually partake in a conversation where both of your conflicting opinions are shared and paid attention to. Listening to your opponents counter argument can help you develop a more rounded opinion, allow you to visit a new perspective you may not have considered and also can really help affirm and solidify your own convictions when you realize how grossly you disagree after listening.
P.S. Your retort is all the more valid when it’s formulated on refuting someone’s previous argument. Your conversation with remain completely stagnant if you spend the duration of the discussion throwing disjointed facts at one another with little correlation to what your opponent was saying
3. Don’t Be Condescending
I included this point in here because, in all things, I always try my best to not be a hypocrite. When you’re a teenager like me, one of the many harrows of voicing your personal thoughts and views is being met with a retort where the person believes that their age and level of education makes them of such as superior caliber that they barely give your opinion the attention that it rightfully deserves. This is incredibly infuriating as age is not always correlated with intelligence and understanding. Though I’m always pointing this out, I’ve failed to notice that I can sometimes fall victim to this level of condescension, especially when I am acutely aware of how wrong I believe the other person is. However, we’ve all had problematic opinions in the past. Our true characters should be defined by how we’ve evolved from those ways of thinking. Therefore, I think it’s really important to take this into consideration and refrain from speaking to other people like they’re of lesser intelligence when they have a different view from yours. This is completely unhelpful if your hope is to educate someone on a certain issue because it might irritate them to the point where they completely ignore what you’re saying and will instead zoom into the way you’re delivering the message. Also, as the saying goes, “Treat people the way you want to be treated.”
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Say I Don’t Know
This is a step that I have most definitely had the hardest time dealing with, but I have also come to terms with the fact that it is completely essential. Growing up, I always had such a fixation with being aware and knowledgeable about things, so I often had a hard time accepting the fact that I don’t actually know everything there is to know about everything. This is completely okay. Sometimes, we’re not going to be informed enough to have a completely all around discussion and this may prevent us from in delving into certain parts of an argument. This may seem embarrassing at the moment, but it’s completely well and good to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t know enough about this particular aspect of the argument to talk about it.” This doesn’t invalidate your previous points and is a lot more worth than grasping to a hardly substantial argument to feign understanding. The latter can actually comprise your argument as opposed to strengthening it and should be avoided at all costs.
5. Being the Bigger Person
Oftentimes, when two people have two very conflicting worldviews, it’s very easy to often find your argument completely disintegrating from a civilized discussion into an evidenced screaming match. This step is therefore essential. Though this is easily misinterpreted as ‘do not get angry’, that is completely not the case as it’s almost impossible for someone to not fall victim to an unbridled fury, especially when your opponent’s counter-argument may be trivializing something very serious to you and is founded on archaic or bigoted logic. It’s nothing short of infuriating. These subjects are labeled as ‘sensitive’ for a reason. However, for the sake of your own sanity, it’s usually best to take a calculated step back from the conversation. Though it’s often easier to start flinging around your best insults, this can lead to an escalation of the situation and create a mounting tension that it’s hard to diffuse. Protecting yourself is definitely not to be seen as a failure, so bowing out gracefully without compromising your integrity is often the best thing. No one is judging you for it.
6. You Can’t Convert Everyone
This step is invariably linked to the former. Your discussion is escalating and your argument is clear concise and to the point. Your statistics and facts are seemingly irrefutable and you can almost legitimately feel the intelligence radiating from you because to you, this belief is of unmatched precedence. You, therefore, spend most of your time looking at your opponent waiting to witness the eureka moment where your opponent’s previous idealism completely disintegrates. They’ll wonder how they could have ever disagreed with you and they’ll embrace your belief. Then, the two of you will skip off into the sunset together. You wait for this, but yet it doesn’t come. This is okay. It’s important to understand that when you go into this discussion, you’re not going to change everyone’s opinions. It’s no fault of yours that some people are just too set in their ways. That doesn’t mean that your argument was of any less worth or that it was somewhat insufficient. Some people just have trouble opening themselves up to new ways of thinking. Maybe it might not change anything in that moment, but what you said could have a lasting impression on that person.. or it may have just gone completely over their head. This again is not a reflection of your own inability or shortcomings but, in fact, just the way of the world. You can’t change everyone, however, you should still be proud of yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone and sustaining the conversation in the first place.
Though it may go against popular beliefs, voicing your opinion doesn’t always have to be a nerve-wracking experience and doesn’t always have to lead to a screaming match. Remember to keep your head held high and to stand up for what you believe in because regardless of your age, ethnicity or gender identity, your opinions will always be valid and deserve to be heard. Though you may make mistakes and your voice may shake, this is all a learning experience and you will grow as a person because of it.