Reframing Opposition Is A Great Way To Keep Connections Healthy. This Is How

Can we just take a minute to acknowledge the division that the COVID vaccine has caused? I never thought I’d say this, but I’ve seen opposition around this topic drive deep and damaging rifts between families and communities.

I get it. There’s so much out there that provides ‘evidence’ for both sides of the scale –and nowadays it’s pretty hard to tell which are the truth.

Why am I talking about this? Because this type of reaction to opposing beliefs is not a new one. Through this whole conundrum, unique as it is, we can see an ancient pattern starting to un-fold: 

opposing beliefs/opinions > tension > division.

One side is against the other. It’s the old “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” mentality. People are fighting their beliefs and it’s driving a wedge between us.

Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States describes the importance of this beautifully.

"You find your community first then you get persuaded. Find shared values before political positions. Be interested in conversation not conversion."

Why opposition can lead to division

The danger of a controversial topic is that it always has the potential to divide if not handled properly. We become so consumed with trying to persuade others of our experience, our opinion, our facts, that we forget one thing: Every person experiences this world in their unique way. This means that each of us interprets things completely differently. For example, let’s say a new law has been implemented. Because of a cocktail of my opinions, experiences, personality, and interpretation, I view it as good. Whilst because of your ‘cocktail’, you might view it as bad.

Quite often, this is the wall that stands between yourself and another. Luckily, if you find  this wall needs to be broken down, it doesn’t have to be a hard task. You just need to put yourself in their shoes.

A fundamental need for humans is to be seen and heard. If you want that to happen, you have to reciprocate that, too.  Ask some powerful questions (and listen to the answers) to place you in another’s shoes and gain their perspective. Once that’s done, it gives both sides the space to be as they are, without feeling they need to justify it. And this builds connection.

Reframing Opposition is a great way to keep connections healthy. This is how

Allowing space for individual internal representation

But surely there is a right and wrong in some situations?

I think we need to be very careful here. Once again, what’s right and wrong will be completely determined by our own experiences, beliefs, cultures, and so on.

During my NLP training, we learnt about how everyone has their own “internal representation” of the information we receive every day. It’s received and processed like this:

  • First and foremostly, our external world is interpreted through our senses (touch, smell, sight, taste, hearing).
  • Then it’s filtered through a subconscious process where our brains will either delete, distort, or generalize the information gathered depending on what it believes to be a relevant reaction. How our brain decides what to do with this information is based on our unique experiences of life – values, memories, decisions, beliefs, traits, attitudes, and so much more that is unique to us!
  • This interpretation then affects our physical and mental state of being and eventually, our behaviour towards the situation.

    Hopefully, this can shed just a little light on why my ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ cannot be assumed to be your ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.

A better alternative to ‘right’ and ‘wrong’

There’s one truth that stands: something can be healthy or harmfulhelpful, or unhelpful.
If I decide to eat all the food in the house, I’m pretty sure I could come up with some fairly reasonable justifications as to why I left my without food for the month (I’m pregnant, food was going off, needed to clean out the cupboards, etc.)
But if I asked myself, “was this healthy or harmful – helpful, or unhelpful to myself and others around me?” The honest answer is, no, this was neither healthy nor helpful for anyone (or my waistline).

Imagine how fruitful our conversations around the COVID vaccine could be if we thought in this way. If we sought to rather deepen our knowledge through hearing the thoughts of others, checking our responses through the lens of “helpful or unhelpful” before reacting.  This is a great way to approach, and even settle, tension with others. Provided they’re happy to reciprocate the act and ask the same questions. It’s even a great way to guide yourself through tough decisions.

But what do you do when you’re faced with someone who strongly disagrees with you – and you with them?

Reframing Opposition is a great way to keep connections healthy. This is how

Reframing The Opposition

So, what does it take to reframe opposition and allow it to become something powerfully positive for both sides?

Listen with COURAGE.

It’s so easy to become defensive when we feel a strong disagreement with another. Hair stands on end, hearts quicken, blood rushes to our face…we can get angry! When you feel this happen, you must remind yourself it is a courageous act to listen when you want to close off. By showing that you are listening with respect and attention, you create a space where they will be happy to lower their guard and return the favour. Watch this awesome video from CAFE Life on brave listening.

Get OFF your high horse.

“When you lower your seat of power you increase your seat of influence”.  Let go of any kind of ‘mightier than thou’ personas you may have, even if you feel you deserve it … without doing this, there is no way you can create or maintain a genuine connection and respect. Meet another on a human-to-human level and watch how it magically transforms the energy between you. And if you haven’t yet, read out blog on Lessons About Connection.

Sometimes you need to get a little ‘RUMBLY’.

If there is an opposition that is impacting your personal or professional life, Brene Brown would say it’s time to RUMBLE. In other words, there’s a potentially difficult and meaty topic that needs to be smoothed out in order for you and another to find a positive ground. Let this be an opportunity to invite clarity into the conversation and find a peaceful ground – you don’t have to agree to achieve this.

And of course…REFRAME your idea of opposition.

It does not have to be seen as a threat or a negative. Understand that there are billions of people in this world – you won’t agree with all of them. And in fact, that’s a good thing. Their beliefs and opinions can add depth to yours. As we mentioned earlier, reframing your perception of opposition can strengthen your argument and expand your perspective. When you find yourself resisting the act of reframing opposition, perhaps think to yourself, “How interesting that they see it this way”, and keep an open, curious mind.

Reframing Opposition is a great way to keep connections healthy. This is how

A final thought on reframing opposition

I understand we’ve touched on a sensitive subject for the world we’re living in. But I think it’s time we get comfortable addressing the elephant in the room and start to ask, is getting my opinion across worth the wellbeing of this relationship? It doesn’t mean you can’t have a debate. A healthy debate has its place, too. But if the relationship really matters, you’ll put in the work to ensure that it’s done in a way that strengthens your connections. 

So. Touchy question, but…next time the COVID vaccine comes up in conversation, how are you going to approach it?

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