Most people like to spend time in the company of other like-minded people. Common ground is what draws individuals together and most initial relationships are based on what each person can share with the other.
You are much more likely to talk with someone who, for example, shares your passion for, let’s say, gardening. You can have such a great time in their company, talking about all the wonderful flowers you have planted and sharing insights on what new fertilizers are out on the market. Then you go home and tell everyone what a wonderful person you have met today.
Being able to share thoughts, ideas and feelings with someone and receiving the same response automatically makes you open up towards them and be much more receptive to their opinions and reactions. That is because they agree with your point of view and they mirror your reactions, which actually further validates your image of the world. It then gives you a sense of worth, making you feel appreciated.
All people have the underlying need to be loved. Agreement and validation of our point of view and our actions is interpreted by nearly all of us as a proof of love, because we think that if a person says yes to what we’re thinking, he or she actually says yes to us. Therefore we feel appreciated and loved by that person.
This behavioral pattern is learned in childhood, when our parents used to praise us for what we did right. Receiving that praise made us feel valuable and loved and we would then repeat the actions we took, in order to be praised again. Now, as adults, we no longer receive praise in the same way we did as children. But still, we keep longing for validation and we feel just like we did when we were kids and our parents told us how good we were. One difference is that we perceive this validation when others agree with us.
The reverse is also true. If somebody holds a different opinion, we may reject that person, especially if the disagreement is presented in the first few moments of the conversation. We take the “I see things differently” of the discussion partner, as a “no” actually directed to us. Our tendency is thus to reject everything which contradicts us, because we need to feel that our world view is valid, and accept only that which already makes sense to us and we find familiar.
This is actually the reason why we surround ourselves with like-minded people and it’s also the reason why we can talk a lot easier with people with whom we share similar experiences. Extremely different backgrounds can cause serious communication problems. If two different persons try to communicate with each other but do not see the same world, they are simply not talking about the same things.
And yet, if we accept only what we find familiar and reject all things different from us, how can evolve? How can we, as individuals grow, if we are not challenged?
Your map is not the territory
What we think of the world is not really the world. It’s just our thoughts regarding it. We believe they are 100% accurate, because it’s all we see. But in fact, if we were to look through the eyes of another person, we would see a completely different world. And that is not the world either, it’s just the other person’s thoughts about the world. Of course, that other person would be as firmly convinced as we are, that he or she holds a very accurate view of the world.
The truth is that none of us can see the world as it really is, because none of us can fully detach from our current perspective. Our intake of the world is based upon our previous experiences and we filter out a great deal of information, that comes in conflict with what we are used to perceive. It’s true that most people only see and hear what they want to.
So, if your world is not in fact reality, but just a thought of it (which, like many thoughts, can be faulty), how can you claim that you are right in what you are saying? The truth is that you ARE indeed 100% right when you state an opinion. But that opinion is valid only in your world. Your neighbor may contradict you, and he is also 100% right in what he is believing. But he is right in his own world. And neither of you are right in reality, because neither of you can perceive reality as it is.
Don’t worry, not being able to perceive reality completely is not a bad thing at all. Not a single person in the world can do it, because everyone is limited and detachment from everything is only achieved by the enlightened. What I want to point out is that what you think of the world is not true, and neither is what others around you think.
That doesn’t mean you should stop thinking . You should only stop claiming you are right and others are wrong, because it’s false. You should stop clinging to your point of view, like it is the absolute truth and valid in every singular situation. This is just a limited and distorted thought. It’s not who you are. Do you really think it is OK to feel loved and validated when someone else holds the same distorted view of reality as you do? Just because there are two of you (or even a majority) does not mean that what you believe is correct. The majority of people used to believe once that the world was flat and discovered hundreds of years later, that is was actually round. In the meantime, they killed everyone who considered disagreeing to that idea.
Seeing the big picture
Having an opinion is OK. It is healthy and it helps you function in this reality. You could not possibly live without having an image of the world and of how things work. Still, please be aware of the fact that it is only limited. That is all right too, because your experience is also limited. But other people have had different experiences and they may see things to which you are oblivious and vice-versa.
So next time you are having a conversation with someone, try hearing them out before judging their view point. Try to understand that you do not hold the absolute truth and that what they are currently sharing with you is not an absolute truth either. They are merely offering you a different perspective, based on their model of reality and on their experience of the world. It’s as valid as your own, even if you may disagree with it. Just try to look at things with an open mind and an open heart and you will see what I mean.
Hearing something which contradicts our current version of reality is not easy to take in. It is a challenge, but as with each challenge, it helps us to grow and gain a greater perspective over things and life. The more opinions we are able to integrate (and the more contradicting they are, the better it is), the closer we get to reality. Of course, we will never be able to fully grasp everything, but it is always better to be open and get one step closer towards truth, than to stick to what we know and simply remain blind because it’s more comfortable.