What If Others Disagree With Me?

We’ve all been confronted with this age-old dilemma: you see a Facebook post that you highly disagree with or a family member brings up a topic you have a strong opinion about. Do you say what you think? Or do you stay quiet in order to “keep the peace”? 

Sharing our opinion can often feel daunting and overwhelming. The idea of someone disagreeing with you can feel quite scary—especially if you actually like that person! This worry causes a lot of people to either refuse to stay informed or never express their opinion out of fear that others will disagree with them. I hear it over and over. And to be honest, I’ve lived out of that fear! 

I used to be so afraid that someone would challenge my opinion, I wouldn’t know how to back it up, or that they would refuse to talk to me because of it. I then would often resort to the phrase, “oh, I actually don’t know very much about that…” I would refuse to become informed or refuse to state my opinion solely out of fear. But what a boring life! I refused to see the issues, policies, and ideas that were swarming the world because I was more worried what others would think of me. Once I began to open my eyes to the information that is at my fingertips, I saw the people that I so often overlooked. I saw a strong voice within myself. And I began to see the power of change that each and every one of us can bring. 

Have you found yourself disengaging from politics, world events, tragedies, and so much more out of fear? You aren’t alone! My hope is that after you read this, you will feel empowered to live a life of engagement in society. Here are a few common fears and how we can shift our mindset to become a more engaged participant in society.

Fear 1: What if others will distance themselves based on my differing opinion? 

This is the root fear that I think a lot of us hold. What will the people I love think if I voice that opinion? Will they refuse to talk to me just because I believe something different? As someone who was raised in an Orange County Evangelical Church, it was very divergent from my family and community to hold political ideas that leaned liberal. For a long time, I didn’t even know anyone who was openly a Democrat within my sphere of community. I often stayed quiet, secretly voted for Democrats, and refused to voice when I disagreed. 

But what I’ve found now that I express myself, is that family members and friends that disagree with me are okay with the phrase “let’s agree to disagree." Ultimately, if someone has decided not to be friends with you or has outcast you based on your opinions, you won’t get anywhere having a discussion with them anyways! This type of ostracizing discussion will often go in circles without finding any sort of common ground. These types of people won’t contribute to your deeper understanding of the world and shouldn’t be the reason you refuse to express your opinions. 

Fear 2: What if my opinion will pin me on a certain side of all arguments? 

We live in a culture that is extremely polarizing based on what side you reside on. The rhetoric in the recent elections has been focused on making an enemy out of the other side. This cultural narrative becomes embedded in us and produces a fear that if you speak about an issue in a certain way, you will become the enemy. This damaging viewpoint causes many people to refuse to listen and discover narratives other than their own. 

However, when we explore other ideas, we begin to create an expanded viewpoint of the world and people around us. Consequently, we refuse to see issues as one side or the other and begin to see the ever-expanding information. We see these same topics of discussions for what they are: ideas that have come from human conciseness to expand society either forward or backward. 

Fear 3: What if I don’t have anything good to say? 

No matter who we are, where we come from, what we know, or how we speak, we all have this same fear. What if I just don’t know? What if I can’t back up my opinion? What if people find holes in my argument? This fear is in all of us! It is rooted in our insecurity of knowledge and understanding. At times I still hold onto the idea that I don’t have anything good to say, so why say anything at all? 

I believe that this is not only due to our lack of confidence within ourselves, but it is also part of the problem with how we respond to one another. Are we refusing to hear each other out? Do we tear each other down in order to make ourselves feel more knowledgeable and better? If others feel poorly about themselves after talking to us, how have we advanced the conversation forward? Next time you are having a conversation with someone you disagree with, think about how you can approach it with love so that others feel empowered rather than torn down. 

I have lived in the place of refusing to live informed and with zero interest in expressing my opinion out of fear of what others will think. The reason why I want so badly for others to become engaged participants in society is so that they will begin to see the world, their lives, and the people around them in new ways. If you haven’t heard already, I launched an email list that I hope will empower you to become an engaged participant in society. I want to go on this journey together to live informed and engaged in all that is occurring in this world!

First, go to my previous blog post and download my guide “How to Be More Socially, Politically, and Culturally Engaged.” This guide walks you through 5 ways to be a more engaged participant in society. The last Monday of every month, you will receive an email walking you through my research, opinions, and ideas regarding one current event that happened that month. My goal isn’t for you to agree with me. Rather, it is for us to continue an informed conversation together. Want to join me on this journey? Sign up below and let’s participate in this world together! 

Elyssa Schultheiss