By Sister Diana Rawlings, ASC

Do you have a tendency to think you’re always right? Do you feel the need to be right?

Writer/thinker/teacher/priest Richard Rohr says our brains are wired for it, to see the world as choices between right and wrong, good and bad, yes and no. He calls it “dualistic thinking,” which starts with our ego, our need to win, to be on top, to be superior to another person’s inferiority.

Our challenge in 2016 is to change that thinking, to let go of the ego and the need to be “right,” to acknowledge we are one with each other.

As you work on letting go of the need to be “right,” here are a few things to practice when disagreeing with someone:

  1. Pay attention to your emotional reaction. A strong reaction could indicate the topic is about a core value or belief and you should decide if the topic warrants spending time and energy to discuss. If not, then agree to disagree.
  2. Don’t take the disagreement personally even if it’s a core belief. This is where dualistic thinking will be challenged. You don’t have to “win” the disagreement because it’s okay that people have different beliefs. This is hard because being “right” is so deeply rooted in us and if I’m wrong then somehow I’m not good enough.
  3. Listen for understanding. Suspend the response you’ve already prepared and listen long enough to understand – even if you don’t agree with — the person’s viewpoint. Use “active listening” techniques to help you.
  4. Always show respect. The person in front of you is more than this one viewpoint or idea or belief. You’ll always have disagreements with family, friends or co-workers. Don’t let a disagreement destroy the relationship.
  5. Don’t yell, attack or blame. If you feel yourself wanting to do any of these, take a breath or two and withhold negative reactions. You can maintain a calm response by keeping the disagreement from becoming personal.
  6. You can always walk away. Taking a break or time-out provides an opportunity to process thoughts and feelings and possibly allow for new insights. You can decide whether to come back for further discussion.
  7. Everyone is unique: Some disagreements will never be resolved no matter how hard you’ve listened to the other’s point of view. That’s okay. You don’t have to see eye-to-eye on every issue. Differences add spice to life.