One of my biggest pet peeves is when people vehemently disapprove of an idea, worldview, activity or creative work without bothering to figure out what it is, exactly, that they’re opposing. Whether they disagree with something as substantial as universal healthcare or as minor as a children’s book the reactions are remarkably similar.
“That idea/worldview/story/song/activity is horrible!”
“What didn’t you like about it?”
“So-and-so says it’s horrible.”
“So, you’ve never actually tried it?”
“Then how do you know that it’s something with which you so adamantly disagree?”
“So-and-so says it’s horrible!”
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
What I’m Not Saying
We don’t have to enjoy or agree with everything that crosses our paths. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having strong opinions or never wavering in one’s beliefs.
What I don’t understand, though, is why we are so afraid of listening to what was actually said instead of relying on conjecture from second or thirdhand information.
There are certain things that I’m (probably) never going to appreciate: brussels sprouts, fashion magazines, the Twilight series, organized sports, the vast majority of radio stations. In the case of the Twilight books I highly doubted that I’d like them but I read a few pages of the first book anyway. The writing style and story did nothing for this lifelong bookworm but that didn’t mean I was going to rely on other people’s opinions when making this decision.
They may be relying on misinformation or we may not have the same aesthetic tastes or political or religious hunches, after all.
But What About…
Yes, occasionally there will be activities or groups that are clearly not compatible with your ethical code or morality. I don’t expect anyone to violate those boundaries.
Sometimes it’s difficult to try it for yourself when that involves, say, moving to another country and experiencing their way of life. I’ve been extremely lucky to live in the US and Canada. There are so many misconceptions about both countries that I try my best to clear up when others make ignorant statements or spread outright lies. On the bright side this has taught me to listen to people who have actually lived through circumstances I once thought I could fully understand by reading about them.
There’s nothing wrong with trying something and discovering that it’s exactly the same as you had assumed it would be. Not everything in life will defy our expectations and that’s ok. What is important is that we know why our opinions or tastes differ and are working with accurate information.
The Bottom Line: listening to other points of view isn’t a threat to our own. It can’t strip away our beliefs or make them less valid or meaningful. If anything my principles have been strengthened by comparing them to other ways of seeing the world because it makes me think about the why behind what I believe.
Now if I could just learn to be less irritated by people who don’t do the same! 🙂