It’s difficult to roam around my small, New York town and find someone that is not Caucasian. Most people are white, middle class, and hold at least somewhat similar political views. I didn’t realize that I would encounter such a significant shift in demographics when I moved to Baltimore to attend a school known for its diversity.
Though, for the most part, I was able to get along with people of different backgrounds and viewpoints, there were the select few that made it difficult to do so. We seemed to get along fine on the surface, but when it came to certain hot-button political issues or thoughts on personal matters, things could get heated. I made it my mission to not only learn to keep my cool when opinions differed, but to love people as they are, and appreciate them as human beings, rather than labeling or judging. Here’s how.
Try Things you Normally Wouldn’t.
You might need to make yourself a little uncomfortable in order to find a new sense of comfort. Visit a friend’s home, see how they grew up, and try to understand why they may think the way they do. Allow them to
show you an activity they enjoy which you wouldn’t do on your own. For example, my best friend’s extended family went to a shooting range recently and invited me along. Although I dislike guns and don’t condone their use, I went anyway and saw that they could have a good time trying to hit a target (not a living one; that I can’t support). They were extremely respectful, and although I didn’t pick up a gun the entire time, I enjoyed watching my friend’s little sister fire a shotgun…and the cursing that came afterward.
If you’re in an argument, you might be tempted to yell at the other person. You might want to just scream, “You’re wrong!” and storm off. This might make him or her devalue your opinion, (as well as make you seem irrational), and unable to support your viewpoint. This is also very different from saying, “I would rather not discuss this with you at this time,” which of course is a more polite and collected response. Take a breath, remove yourself from the conversation, and return at a time when you can both listen and contribute.
Reflect on Your Own Beliefs.
Maybe you’ve never really thought about why you feel the way you do on certain matters. Did you have an experience that shaped your principles? Did you simply inherit your values from your parents (rather than forming your own independently)? This could help you convey your side to another party. On the other end of the spectrum, it may help you realize that you want to pay closer attention to what your friend is saying—they might just have a point.
It seems cliché to say that we should love everyone we meet, for that’s simply unrealistic. I believe that Millennials, in particular, recognize this notion, and realize that it takes a lot of sifting through acquaintances to find people with whom we really click. This means we’ll have to do quite a bit of socializing to find those people, and we may make some unexpected friends along the way. We even need friends to keep us healthy! We must be accepting (or at least considerate) in order to be socially successful. The best part is, you might find yourself liking more people after opening yourself up. It’s the most effective and mature way to learn about others and from others, and people will surely like you more for it.