Let’s talk politics. Now, before you shut down your computer and switch off your smartphone, hear me out: I don’t want to discuss my political views per se. But I do want to discuss political views, or views of any kind.
First, it needs to be said that it is alright to “agree to disagree”. In fact, it is more than alright; it is completely normal! We all think differently—no two minds are alike, as I discuss in depth in my book The Perfect You, in which I examine the question of identity and the “I-factor”, that is how each of us has a unique way of thinking, choosing and feeling. According to a recent Yale study, there is no such thing as a “normal” brain. The law of the brain is diversity.No two brains are wired in the same way, just as no two people are exactly the same—even identical twins. We cannot escape our differences.
Diversity should actually be celebrated—the world would be a very boring place indeed if we all agreed on everything all the time. Our differences can be incredibly exciting, because it means that each of us can do something that no one else can do. Einstein and Picasso saw things very differently, yet both of them made this world a more exciting and beautiful place.
Today it is far too easy to put someone in a certain group or label them as an enemy just because you disagree with them. But, you may say, you don’t know what an idiot “so-and-so” is (I know we all have those thoughts from time to time). Of course, sometimes people say and do bad things, and being different does not excuse bad behavior. But being different does not necessarily equate to bad behavior, even if you don’t like the way someone thinks or what someone says.
What are some ways you can learn to love and respect and love others, even if you disagree with their beliefs? What does responding in love look like?
- Recognise that everyone thinks differently. If you catch yourself saying that “so-and-so” doesn’t know what he is talking about, stop, remind yourself that everyone sees the world differently because no two minds are alike, and listen to what that person has to say before responding impulsively. You have the ability to step outside of yourself using your frontal lobe and truly hear what someone says as an observer rather than as someone who thinks “so-and-so” is an idiot. Train yourself train yourself to really tune into what that person is saying and not just hear “trigger” words and react. For example, every time you listen to someone who has a different opinion, try see the argument from their perspective, as your teacher made you do in school when you encountered different ideas. The ability to think critically and understand different viewpoints is, after all, a sign of intelligence, not compromise.
- Watch what you say. When you make negative statements, you release negative chemicals in your brain and body, as I discuss in my book Think, Learn, Succeed. These chemicals allow negative memories to grow stronger, especially if you continue to allow these thoughts to dominate your thinking, which not only impacts your own health but the health of those around you. Words can harm people, regardless of what the “sticks and stones” phrase says, so measure what you say with kindness andwisdom. Words also reflect what is going on in your head, so stop and ask yourself if you want those toxic thoughts to take root in your brain and color the way you see and react to people.
- Don’t take offense. Offense and bitterness are like toxic seeds in the mind; the more you water them with your thinking, the more you hurt yourself and those around you. If someone offends you, don’t let those feelings fester in your mind—reconceptualise the thought and replace it with something positive about that person. And if you feel wronged, forgive them! Forgiveness enables you to release toxic thoughts of anger, resentment, bitterness, shame, grief, regret, guilt, and hate. It disentangles you from the source of the issue, removing the negative energy from toxic thinking. For more on forgiveness see my book Think, Learn, Succeed and my podcast (episode #33) on why forgiveness heals the brain.
Our differences do not need to divide us. Regardless of what other people believe, do, or say, we can respond in love. Indeed, we can’t control people, but we can control how we react to people.