I remember the day I learned a BIG LESSON on how to be tolerant.
I was at a dinner party and a group of people were discussing the world’s problems.
My friend’s husband Jamie had a very strict, black-and-white view of how things should be done. He started talking about forced birth control in certain countries.
Well, things got heated.
Everyone started tearing him to pieces. One friend ended up screaming at him and calling him an awful name, then ran out of the room crying.
But the whole time, my friend Francisco sat there quietly, observing.
He waited a while, then with a calm voice, he said “here’s what I think…”
He shared his thoughts in the most dignified manner I’ve ever seen. He completely disagreed with the “forced birth control” idea, but he was willing to engage in a calm conversation.
Francisco took the reins that night. He somehow moderated things and turned it into a productive conversation, rather than just yelling at each other and getting angrier and angrier.
In a world where things are increasingly more hostile due to the internet, we need more people like Francisco.
Below we’ll explore how to be more tolerant of how others think, how to open up a productive dialogue, and how to stay calm in the heat of the moment.
#1. Put yourself in their shoes
The best place to start is to consider how others think. Put yourself in their shoes. If you were them, how would you feel?
Try to understand how the other person thinks and why they think how they do.
What is their situation in life? Why do they believe how they do?
#2. Open up a productive dialogue
Opening up a productive dialogue requires that at least one person is willing to listen. Try to give the other person space to express what they want to say, and refrain from interrupting.
After they are finished speaking, it’s useful to summarise your understanding of what they said, so they can see that you listened. You don’t have to agree, but tell them that “I hear what you’re saying”.
Then is the time to share your perspective and discuss how your opinions may differ.
It’s particularly useful to look for areas that you can agree on.
Avoid judgement in this process. If they get defensive, tell them how you aren’t trying to judge how they think.
#3. Focus on listening rather than how the other person is wrong.
It’s easy to judge how another person thinks, but it’s much more productive to listen and be fully engaged.
Don’t spend your time looking for opportunities to counter their opinions. Instead, try to understand how they think.
You will gain a broader perspective of how how people can be so different.
And remember, it’s always ok to change your mind or reconsider. Don’t let pride get in the way of a good growth opportunity.
#4. Be aware of your own biases
We all have different views because we all have different lives.
Understand how your personality and life experience has influenced the way you see the world.
“Implicit Bias” is the scientific term that describes how people are strongly guided by beliefs rather than the facts at hand.
Implicit bias is everywhere, from themes of gender, ethnicity, weight, and so on.
Think about a time when you judged someone based on their body shape. This is an example of how implicit bias manifests in every part of our lives..
So, keep an open mind about your own biases, and be willing to challenge them every now and then.
#5. Think before you speak
Before opening your mouth, take a moment to think about the impact of your words.
Do you really mean that? Are you being sincere and thoughtful?
This simple step of pausing before you speak can save a lot of damage in terms of saying things that you might regret later… or that you don’t even mean.
Taking this further, be generous with your interpretations of what others say. As a rule of thumb, assume the best instead of the worst.
Ask yourself, “What if they meant ___ instead of how it comes across?”
6#. Be mindful of the media you consume.
It’s important to be mindful of the media we consume as it shapes how we see the world. Be selective about the outlets you get your news from, and try to consume a variety of perspectives.
Think about the reputation of the sources you’re listening to. Are they credible? Do I believe that they’re a force for truth? Or is there some manipulation going on?
It can be very difficult to wrap your head around this in today’s mediascape, but it’s important.
The term “echo chamber” has become a hot topic in the last few year. Once again, be mindful, as these tend to reinforce and manipulate existing beliefs.
Finally, monitor how much time you’re spending on news and social media. Give your brain time to rest and process everything you’ve been watching.
#7. Embrace diversity
Step outside of your normal world and engage with people from different backgrounds and cultures.
Get a taste for how other people live and what things they enjoy.
This doesn’t necessarily mean jumping in the deep end on heavy philosophical topics. Food, music, and art are great places to start.
#8. Avoid anger and yelling
Anger is a very powerful emotion that can quickly cloud our judgement.
When we’re angry, it’s difficult to think clearly and rationally.
This is why it’s important to avoid yelling and screaming when we’re in an argument. It only makes the situation worse and can easily lead to a destructive shouting match or worse.
If you find yourself getting angry, take a step back and try to calm down.
Count to 10 or take a deep breath.
#9. How to be tolerant when others aren’t tolerant?
If someone else isn’t being tolerant, take it as an opportunity to be a leader.
Act with dignity in the heat of the moment, and they may just take a page from your book in the future.
So, try to be understanding of how others see the world. Remember that we all have different lives, opinions, experiences, cultures, etc., so it’s important not to judge someone for how they live their life or what they believe in.
It can help you avoid conflict when you think about how other people might view a situation differently than you do – even if your opinion is based on facts!
It’s also important to keep in mind how certain biases may have influenced how you saw things in the past.