What is the reality of having different opinions from a friend? How do you stay friends?

 In Differences, Friendships, Life choices, Relationships
Being Wise… taking in the wisdom across generations
by Christine, age 37

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The thing that struck me most about the topic and blogs this month was the idea of respect. We all want it, but we don’t always give it. Relationships that work have it, ones without it don’t… and that goes for friends as well as lovers and family members. We can have different opinions from our friends if there is respect on both sides, it’s what allows us to say, “I respect that you have an opinion, I am willing to hear what that is, and I don’t have to agree with you.” In fact, if we have a safe place to disagree we can really stretch ourselves to get curious, see other points of view and grow as women.
But like most things, this is easier said than done. I am a passionate person and when my friends and I disagree it hasn’t always been pretty, especially when it involves social and political issues. Some topics are really hard, especially when you are at polar ends of  the earth. What usually happens in those friendships is that we avoid those topics or only engage in them occasionally.
Most of us stay away from uncomfortable discussions, or we limit our close friendships to people who think like us. But avoidance is not the answer. While most of us wouldn’t be super excited about walking into a room full of people who staunchly oppose our opinions, we can all challenge ourselves to use our friendships as a safe place to share our opinions, even when they differ. The important thing is that we hold R-E-S-P-E-C-T, we stop ourselves from trying to convert the other, and we listen. We may not agree, and that’s okay, as long as we have respect and heart with our friend.
Olive, age 13, says:

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Whether or not it is possible to be friends with someone that is totally different than you really depends on what kind of friend they are to you. Are they a best friend or just a buddy?
If they are just a buddy then it should be okay. You might still have trouble though if you don’t even have fun together. When you hang out together you have to have something to talk about without always disagreeing otherwise your time together will just be miserable. If you do have fun together though it is just best to enjoy each others opinions and just be open.
If they are your best friend then you have some trouble. Most people like to be right and prove their point so if you are constantly talking to them and hanging out with them you will just argue all of the time. Arguing is okay but when you do it all of the time it just means that you have an unhealthy relationship.
When you go out shopping with your friends you want to be able to find something that is cute and have them agree with you. That’s just the type of person that most people want to be around. If you have friend and all you can think about them is bad thoughts, that’s a good sign that maybe it’s time to talk or it’s time to let go and find a new friend.
Anne, age 41, says:

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It’s funny. I have become very good friends with someone whose religious beliefs, on the surface, are quite different from my mine. However, I really value her friendship. We never discuss the specifics of her worldview or mine, but rather have worked out a way to have really meaningful conversations about ethics, life, death, raising children, etc. and we do not always agree. On the other hand, I have had a friendship fade, even though we were raised relatively the same way and had mostly the same general beliefs. I think why the first relationship works and latter one didn’t isn’t what we disagreed about, it was what we really thought and felt about each other on a personal level that made it impossible for us to have a safe place to have disagreement and ultimately a friendship.
So maybe at the end of the day it is a yes and no answer. I find you can have significant differences of opinions about almost anything as long as you have mutual respect and honesty. So another question is when you do disagree with someone and it gets you really angry or upset, why do you want them to see the world the way you do? What are you trying to convince them or yourself of?
Linda, age 60, says:
 
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This question really brings up another:  How do we define friendship?  And one’s answer to that question provides a clue to the first.
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When I choose to move an acquaintance into my circle of friends, it’s because we are of a like mind.  We share similar values, enjoy similar activities, and view the world in a similar fashion.  Granted, our political or spiritual views may differ somewhat but the essence of who we are as people is very much the same.
Opinions are what they are, and everyone can give one on just about any topic.  They really don’t define an individual; they only present us with information about what that person thinks.  The problem with opinions is when someone insists on being “right.”  And these are the people who are difficult for me to be friends with.
Why?
In my experience, people who define opinions as right or wrong make judgments about others on a somewhat superficial level.  What someone thinks becomes more important than who someone is.  And, in that process, I feel very judged not by who I am but by what I say.  It’s very difficult for me to engage in friendship with someone who lacks the openness to accept my views or choices as the results of my own life experience.
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Showing 5 comments
  • Kristin Davis

    Linda’s comment really resonates with me. I have several close friends with very different religious and/or political views, and yet it’s the way we all respect each other that makes our friendships successful. I do have one friend who has very strong political feelings that are polar opposite from mine, and we tend to completely avoid politics during this election season just because it’s not worth it to get into a discussion when we have such different perspectives.

  • Debba Haupert

    Interesting timing for this question. I posted a blog about being apolitical this week and how my girlfriend and I cancel out each other’s vote, but we’re friends. Well, that’s where it started and all I’ll say is that I was in tears after her political rant on my site.
    Tough times for friends who feel strongly about the candidates!
    Thanks for asking though! Debba Haupert
    http://www.girlfriendology.com

  • Christine Arylo

    Debba – thanks for the post. The question I ask, which is one I ask alot, is “Why is it that we can’t be real with our girlfriends face to face, heart to heart.” Instead, often, we use the electronic voice to get out our feelings… and most of the time (as your tears say) it doesn’t make anything better. Maybe we all need to take some remedial communications training 🙂 Or maybe we just need to open our hearts and put away our claws. Christine Arylo

  • Mynde

    The reality of having different opinions with my friends, my family, my community or my world is tricky, depending on where I choose to put my focus. I will be better served (and so my friends & world) if I can choose to shift my focus out of the need to agree or the expectation that we should agree. Instead, I put my focus on how I want to show up with you when we do disagree.
    I want to remember why I choose to connect in the first place and see how I feel about that now.
    I want to use every situation as feedback and then practice staying “in” the game. It could look like asking more questions, reminding each other out loud about the “why this relationship is important to me” part or even saying “I’m scared. I sometimes forget that our disagreement does not mean we do not value each other.” The ultimate practice challenge: seeing where we are similar or alike instead of focusing on our differences (try that with Politics).
    I guess it depends on what you need most: agreement or connection? My ego loves agreement, my heart yearns for connection. I guess that makes me human 🙂

  • Christine Arylo

    Mynde – you said it great – my ego loves agreement and my heart yearns for connection. Now if we can only remember that when we are in that moment of waiting to shake our girlfriend and say, See it my way!! I am human too, and while I have gotten a heck of a lot better at noticing the difference between my ego and my heart, I am no where near perfect… yet 🙂

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