A different opinion


Someone close to you gripes that you're always putting him/her down when he expresses an opinion.

You say he is petty, childish. Trivial little remarks that would never offend you, like "That's a dumb idea," or "That's not important" get him all bent out of shape. You tell him he's making a fuss over nothing, and then he gets even more upset.

Of course he does. Look at it this way:

* First, you wipe him out by passing negative judgment on something he presented (even if that kind of judgment wouldn't offend you, it clearly did offend him).

* Then you add to the offense by telling him that how he feels about the put-down isn't significant.

Well, you say, are you supposed to agree with everything he says just to keep peace? What if you have a different opinion?

That is fine, but having different opinions is not the problem. Not respecting his right to have an opinion (evidenced by saying "that's not important") is the problem. To respond to him appropriately you might say: "What you told me doesn't seem important to me, but I respect the fact that it is important to you."

Remember, by listening to the other guy's opinion without shooting it down, not only do you gain the right to equal time, you also gain the respect of the other person.

Barbara Turk is a psychotherapist in private practice.

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