If there is one thing that persistently interferes in all relationships, both within business and our private lives, that constantly gets in the way of finding creative solutions to our problems and opportunities to progress in all manner of ways, it is the attachment we have to our own opinions. It is something I am trying to give up, but it is not that easy.
As someone who genuinely does, at least try to appreciate different viewpoints, I am often slow to come to a conclusion about many things. This, I think, is part of the problem. By the time my opinion has solidified regarding some matter that I may deem to be important, I have generally also considered various other popular perspectives on the issue and come to my own decision. If someone brings up such a topic in conversation, I sometimes find myself drawn in to pointing out possibilities they may not have considered.
It is not unusual for me to hold a minority opinion and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I also don’t think it is wrong to have a different opinion to someone else and I think everyone’s opinion deserves respect. But frequently, in conversation, it seems that people are not as interested in exploring a topic so much as defending their own position; and, despite what I have said, I am gradually coming to the awareness that exactly the same is true of me.
Who am I to think that another person may not have considered all the same possibilities before reaching their conclusion and who am I to think that my own opinion is better formed? That is the personal development lesson that I have been trying to embrace most recently. The answer is in the principle of detachment: that all opinions and views are valid to some extent and so it is unwise to be too rigidly attached to any of them.
Even in coming to the above conclusion, I can foresee a possible difficulty. I can easily imagine some future discussion in which I might be asked to explain to my friends, perhaps at a dinner party, why I hold no fixed view on the topic being discussed, assuming I can actually manage it, of course. Then, as I attempt to explain the principle of detachment, someone else challenges my opinion on the principle of detachment itself, and tells me that it is a good thing to have an opinion on whatever it is that is being discussed ;).
Well, I guess I will have to come up with a strategy to deal with the challenge should it ever occur, but I am, more and more, becoming convinced that by holding all possible opinions, and simultaneously holding no opinion, I can liberate myself from the burden of defending the personal views I hold and, in the process, might save a lot of energy that could be better directed.
There was an occasion that I remember someone saying that she would never forgive the Germans for what they did in the war. Foolishly, I engaged in that conversation pointing out that the German nation had done its level best, since the war, to make amends for its past and that perhaps the time had come to forgive. The result was quite a heated conversation in which both parties exchanged frank views and neither party was persuaded that the other might have a point.
On another occasion, I can remember someone becoming quite angry that, in response to their story of a friend whose pay had been cut by her employer, I said that she should get another job. He said that this person had no choices or options available and I said that there were always choices and if the person really had no options, then the pay the employer was paying was her market worth. It may sound harsh, but it represents my view about how economies are driven by market forces. Again the atmosphere was somewhat charged and neither person appreciated the opposite point.
One final example: I remember someone expressing an opinion to the effect that science had basically disproved the Bible. Again, foolishly, I felt it was my place to point out the error in that thinking. I can’t remember exactly how the discussion went, but my contribution was around my view that it is perfectly possible to come to a synthesis between the Biblical and scientific views (see Genesis & Spacetime) of how we come to be here. Again, neither party was persuaded that the other had a valid point.
Now, I don’t want you to get the impression that I am always going around looking to people to argue with, but these are the kind of fruitless conversations I am seeking to avoid in the future. They are both meaningless and pointless. As I said, I am sure it will be a lot easier said than done, but developing more of a detached position, even on the most contentious issues, perhaps most importantly, is something I intend to practice.