What does it mean to have a point of view today? In our constantly connected world, there is no shortage of opinions. Many who voice their point of view receive criticism both online and off. We tend to think of cyberbullying as primarily a problem among middle and high school students, but consider what you see on Facebook, Twitter, and in the comments sections of news articles and blogs. Often there are heated conversations and personal attacks being made on these platforms by adults simply because two people don’t see eye to eye. Open discussions and disagreements are what make our country so great. However, the cowards who spew hate behind a fictitious/anonymous persona eat away at the foundation of constructive debates. There’s nothing more annoying than that person. Has it been that long since we were taught to treat each other with respect? We all know the benefits of the importance of playing nice. There is a way to have an opinion and still be respectful of others. It’s called convicted civility.
Lutheran scholar Martin Marty made an observation in the 1990’s, “People who have strong convictions these days aren’t very civil, and people who are civil often don’t have very strong convictions. What we need is ‘convicted civility.’” What he meant was that those who have a strong point of view tend to be too abrasive and alienating to those who do not share their perspective. Similarly, those who are too concerned with being polite (or infinitely worse…politically correct), tend to be reluctant to share their point of view. What we need is a happy medium.
One of the most important places to exhibit convicted civility is in the workplace. This is where we spend the majority of our time and we need to invest in creating an atmosphere that fosters healthy, spirited debate. So what do you do when there is a disagreement? I’m not talking about a disagreement over what kind of coffee should be stocked in the office…but rather something that touches deeply on a person’s values, convictions and beliefs. How do you acknowledge a difference of opinion?
Our opinions can be deeply rooted—so when someone challenges or disagrees with them, the natural tendency is a defensive stance. Sometimes we’re so ready to make our opinion known, we don’t fully listen to our coworkers position. My fourth grade teacher always used to say that we couldn’t listen when our mouth was open. Work relationships are much more effective when people listen to each other and engage in conversation. You don’t have to agree with them, but listen to what they have to say and acknowledge their point of view.
Share your point of view. You should feel confident enough in your position to speak your mind. Of course, there are times when it’s better not to discuss certain subjects at work, but in marketing there are very few things that are off limits. Having convicted civility means that you are able to deliver your point of view without being rude, brash, or overbearing. Don’t try to preach your point or change others opinions, but rather deliver yours in a rational, even tone. If you don’t vote, you don’t have a say in who governs you. If you don’t speak your mind, you don’t have a say in how things get done in your office.
You don’t have to see eye to eye with your coworker to respect them. Try to put yourself in their shoes and think about why they might have a different opinion than you do. Often this can be nearly impossible if your first reaction is anger or resentment. Instead of getting angry, get thoughtful. Try to see why something so rational to you seems irrational to them, and vice versa. It might not change your mind, but it might make you respect their point of view a little more. If you want to be respected, you must first give respect.
4. Know That You Don’t Have To Agree
The wisest behavior when you find yourself in a disagreement with a coworker is to know that you don’t have to agree with them to move forward. Convicted civility means that you are able work alongside others who do not share your opinion because you are respectful of your differences. Sometimes “agreeing to disagree” is the fastest and least problematic path to moving forward.
I first heard about “convicted civility” at a church service and the concept made a huge impact on me. Many times, it seems that the person (or media outlet) with the loudest voice becomes the dominating opinion that drives our thinking in all kinds of situations. From the work place and at home to social and political issues, opinions are passionately defended. We use too broad of a brush to paint people and groups into one point of view. No one is going to steal our opinion, so we don’t need to defend it like we’re being robbed.
We need to be bold and own our opinions, whether they’re popular or not. With that same boldness, we’re called to respect others opinions in the same way we want ours to be respected…the true definition of convicted civility.
by Paul Jankowski