Sunday, February 22, 2015

Opinions, so many opinions

This week I had the good fortune to meet Snowbrush, and participate in a thought-provoking discussion in the comments section of his blog.  It all got me thinking about a question that is often on my mind.

Where is the line between tact and self-suppression?

How much of myself am I willing to hide or at least gloss over in the name of social harmony?

If I claim someone as my friend, without knowing for sure whether or not they would still respect me if they knew all of my real opinions, are they actually my friend, or is that an illusion that is just waiting for the right moment to crack?

It is a potentially painful question.  I usually err on the side of ignoring it, hoping that my relationships with various people will muddle along without too many overt confrontations.  I am a diplomat by nature, always seeking to find common ground; always wanting everyone to get along.  I don't like being forced to choose a side, because I don't like to cut myself off from the people on the other side.  I mean, aside from sociopaths, we're all only human, just tying to get by and do our best, right?  If we can keep that in mind, surely we can at least tolerate each other?

You need a "for example"?   Fine.  Okay.  I will go out on a limb and give you a real one.

I believe that abortion should be legal.  I think that it's a horrible, sad necessity.  I don't have a firm opinion on what the cut-off date should be, or when exactly a collection of cells stops being an undefined blob and becomes a person.  I just don't think that desperate women should have to resort to "home remedies" that might kill or maim them.

I'm not an expert on the subject, and if you are an expert you could probably corner me in a discussion  and make me feel extremely uncomfortable.  I've never had to face an unwanted pregnancy personally, but I've always felt that I wouldn't be able to bear going through with an abortion.  My opinion is mainly based on a documentary film I saw about poor women in a third world country giving themselves abortions, and how awful that was.  (This was in my second year of university.  I had to leave the auditorium and almost fainted on the way out.)  After that point it has always been my gut feeling that the lesser evil is to offer medically safe abortions to women who feel that this is the only option for them.  At least then their other kids will have a healthy mom to raise them.

This is not something that I talk about, like, ever.  Not least because nice people who go to church (and some others who don't) might be horrified by it, and I have no desire to horrify anyone.  I get why people are against abortion.  It's not like I'm all "Yeah, go abortion!  Kill those babies!  Who needs 'em?"  I like babies.  Under other circumstances I might have had a couple myself.

So, how should one handle these subjects?  Sensitively, I guess.  And with respect for other peoples' feelings.  Even one of my older relatives who can blurt out some pretty racist garbage sometimes deserves my understanding.  He's a holocaust survivor.  He was a baby in Czechoslovakia when his parents had to make a run for it in the night after the Nazi invasion.  They escaped, but most of his parents' immediate and extended family was killed.  It messed them up pretty bad.  His feelings about "us" vs. "them" didn't evolve in a vacuum.  I've never seen him treat an actual individual badly in person due to race; he'll just run off at the mouth making dumb generalizations if he thinks he's in the company of "us" and he can get away with it.  I challenge him sometimes, but I have to pick my battles, and I try to do it gently.

I know that we can't all agree on everything.  I only wish that people would be more sensitive.  I try hard to be tactful, which costs me some significant effort, and then I get frustrated when the favour isn't returned.  (Let me be clear that Snowbrush handled our discussion with admirable sensitivity.  I was thinking about this stuff because I have an IRL friend who handles the same subject matter with a condescending smirk, and it hurts my feelings.)

How do you handle differences of opinion on hot-button topics?  Avoidance?  Full steam ahead with your opinion and if they don't like it they can sit and spin?  Pretending to agree but seething in silence?  If you have any tricks to make it easier, I'd love to know them.


Ginny said...

I think it depends on who I'm talking to. I'm not afraid to state my beliefs but if it's someone I don't know well I'll try my best to be tactful and if I sense the conversation is going down a bad path I'll move along to another topic. With my friends I'm more likely to debate an issue more. It can be tricky to state your beliefs and not be offensive.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

I agree with your attitude. There's a lot of grey area, but I tend to be pro-choice. I believe a person has to make their own decisions, but if it was my child I would not chose abortion, my choice. Ultimately the woman carrying the child has final say. Now if you start throwing out time frames and other factors there's a lot that's debatable.

Lynn said...

I always just listen attentively to others' opinions - sometimes I give an opinion of my own back, but never like to get into a full on debate. That's just not me. I usually smile and say "we'll have to agree to disagree."

DarcKnyt said...

I think I'm with you. I think I've run the gamut though, so I should say, "I think I'm with you now."

As a younger man, I had a very hard-fact, aggressive way of "explaining" my ideas and beliefs. My opinions came after...very shortly after.

Now, I've hit a time of uncertainty and lack of confidence in myself. It's been a long, long time in the making and it's a hard, long road back to being confident enough to hear others sound off on what they think without feeling the need to defend my own opinions or thoughts.

So...long story longer, I think I self-suppress until and unless I'm in the company of KNOWN like-minded people. (Such as my wife; we share a lot of opinions.)

Granny Annie said...

My first rule of any abortion discussion is never to talk to men about it or even consider their arguments valid. My second rule is to respect the opinion of any woman and respect their individual decisions. My third rule is to trust that God will help any woman with her ultimate choice and protect, cherish and embrace her as well as every fetus, born or unborn.

G. B. Miller said...

I've met Snowbrush in the comment section of my blog as well, and I too found him to erudite and thought provoking.

As for hot button issues, while I do have my opinions on them, I will tactfully challenge people to convince me why I should considering joining their "choir" so to speak.

Some have met the challenge admirably (i.e. Riot Kitty) enough to make reconsider/modify certain stances about hot-button issues.

Others have not, and some have waffled enough to unfriend me on Facebook because they had a wet noodle spine.

As for the abortion issue, I was originally pro-choice, then drifted to pro-life, but now I'm somewhere in between.

In my world, or at least the people I deal with on a daily basis, that particular issue isn't even on the radar.

Father Nature's Corner

Sparkling Red said...

Hey, thanks everyone for your thoughts. I appreciate knowing your opinions.

LL Cool Joe said...

I'm friends with a great many people that hold completely different beliefs to me on almost every subject. I just try to find some common ground and focus on that. It would be a boring world after all if we all held the same views on everything.

Jenski said...

I vacillate between discussing hot button topics and not. Largely with my family I avoid it because, well, you can't pick your family. Close friends I will have more honest conversations with.

I find that a good test of your relationship is to play Cards Against Humanity. If you come out of that laughing with people, you can probably have a respectful conversation too. :-)

I also love Grannie Annies approach and may adopt it for my own.

Vanessa T said...

Those hot-button topics are usually so emotionally charged, it can be difficult to remain detached when discussing them. I mean, in many ways, they kind of form our identity.

I try to listen first, when someone expresses something I disagree with. Just kind of absorb what they're saying. Asking questions can be a good way to start a dialogue, and sometimes you might even be able to get them to see a different POV besides their own. Sometimes I listen and seethe in silence - depends on who it is and what the topic is about, how much of myself I'm willing to invest/have invested in the relationship. Sometimes you just have to be willing to agree to disagree because you love the person and the relationship is worth it to you. :)