Likely you would all agree that you want to be supportive to your friends and family. Me too. We want to encourage them in their endeavors, listen to their dreams and disappointments, celebrate with them and love them how they most enjoy being loved.
This is a time in world history when we talk so openly about embracing diversity. Making sure our board of directors are diverse, making sure our hiring practices represent gender equality, extending rights regardless of gender identity transitions or sexual orientation, backing up diversity values with laws and standards. Great strides, necessary strides are being taken. There is still plenty of room for growth here but there is movement.
At the same time it seems to be a time when people are very entrenched in their positions and where relationships are at risk over differences of opinions, political or otherwise.
How can we love and support others when we don’t agree with them?
Does support mean agreement? I don’t think it does, I think we are just so used to only supporting people when they are doing what we think they should be doing.
It is easy to support people when we approve of their thoughts, actions, attitudes. I’m not talking about condoning illegal or abusive behavior here. There are so many things though that others do that simply fall in to the category of “something I would not do” - or think, or say, etc.
Here are my thoughts on how we can handle these situations. Let’s say someone in your life has just done something that you think is unwise.
Separate out the person from the value or action. Can you love the person even though you would choose a different action?
Process your own emotion about the situation. It is okay to have your own strong feelings about someone else’s decisions and choices, obviously, but way more helpful to the relationship if you can process your reactions and emotions away from them. This releases the energy of your reaction and lets you focus on supporting them versus your conversation being about your reaction and feelings.
Think of how your friend’s choice is viewed by them. What does this mean in their world? What amazing values are they demonstrating by their choice, even if you would do so very differently? Make a list of the strengths and positive values you see in that person and, when possible, even in their choice.
Give them feedback that supports their positive values and qualities you see in them.
It is okay to refrain from giving advice, disagreeing, sharing what you would have done differently. Most of us don’t like being told what to do or how to do it. Most of us don’t like being told how someone else would have done something better or different. If someone really wants your opinion they can ask you for it and you can cross that bridge then!
So, let’s build bridges over to the people on the other side of some issues, beliefs, and ideas. Let’s see what will happen when we start loving people who think differently from us!
Until next week,
Marilyn Orr is a Professional Certified Coach, who, through her coaching business “Capacity Building Coaching”, thrives on building both personal and organization capacity through leadership coaching and development.
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