Arguing with people who have different opinions deprives us of a lot of energy

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Louise Hay

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In such a heterogeneous world, it is normal to have different opinions. The strange and disturbing thing would be to think all the same way. Differences are the driving force behind change. They help us understand perspectives and ways of facing life that are different from ours, both in the most trivial and in the most important matters.

However, discussing a problem with different opinions can quickly turn into an all-out war. Mercilessly. Without logic. The confrontation of different opinions continues to be one of our weaknesses.

How does our brain react to different opinions?

When two people talk about a controversial issue, they may agree or have different opinions. In both cases, different brain areas are activated, both when we listen and when we speak. This explains, at least in part, why it can sometimes be so difficult to argue different opinions and come to an agreement.

Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found that our brains shut down to reasons when we disagree with our interlocutor's opinion. They also saw that the confrontation of different opinions forces our brains to work under stress.

About 40 people participated in the experiment, selected on the basis of their deeply rooted beliefs on potentially controversial issues, such as the legalization of soft drugs or the recognition of same-sex marriage as a civil right.

Pairs were then created so that people could discuss freely while neuroscientists monitored their brain activity. Thus, the activation of the different brain areas was checked when people agreed on a point and when they disagreed.

Neuroscientists have seen that when people agreed on a problem, certain sensory areas of the brain, such as the visual one, and other areas responsible for the articulated functions of thinking were activated. But the most curious thing is that there was a sort of cerebral synchronization between the two interlocutors. Their brains worked in harmony.

On the other hand, when people have different opinions, things get complicated. There are "leaps" in brain coupling and each interlocutor is forced to mobilize more cognitive and emotional resources. "In particular, the cognitive processes that occur in the frontal lobe of the brain work harder to disagree than to agree," the researchers noted. The huge amount of cognitive resources we have to mobilize to discuss ends up consuming a great deal of energy and robbing us of our mental balance. This explains why we feel frustrated and exhausted after an argument.

You can also see a greater activation of the speech areas while reducing those related to listening. This explains why it is so difficult to reach agreement when we have different opinions: we close ourselves to the arguments of others. We try to be right at all costs and look for arguments to support our point of view while ignoring the opposite position.

I am right, you are wrong: why is it so difficult for us to accept different ideas?

Each thought, repeated for a while, becomes part of our mental program. This mental program is made up of opinions, beliefs, judgments and stereotypes that we will later integrate into our identity. Thus we begin to identify with them.

So we seek - consciously or unconsciously - situations and people who fit our mental program, who share our ideas and beliefs, to reaffirm them and feel comfortable. If someone says something shttps: // that is not part of our mental program, we perceive it as a personal attack and feel the need to defend ourselves.

But the goal of any opinion or belief is not to validate it but to continually test it. Undisputed opinions end up becoming monolithic truths that trap us. When a belief dominates us, we come to think that everyone should think alike.

Still, having different opinions is completely normal. And we must not fall into the error of completely identifying who we are with what we think. We are all much more than our thoughts. And most importantly, we will be much more so as our ideas evolve.

We must understand that the intensity of the rejection we feel when faced with ideas other than our own is proportional to the degree of attachment we have to our beliefs. In other words, the more we identify with a belief and the more we cling to it, considering it an absolute truth, the more rejection will provoke contrary beliefs.

How to argue different opinions assertively?

When a different opinion causes us a feeling of internal rejection, we should ask ourselves if we are reacting to the idea itself or if it is our refusal to change and accept different points of view. Perhaps we discover that the problem is not the idea, but our rigidity to open ourselves to other positions and our unwillingness to dialogue or to change our beliefs.

It is also worth remembering that accepting different opinions does not necessarily imply taking them as your own or validating them. We can accept that others think differently and respect them without agreeing with their opinions. It is not always necessary to convince the other that we are right or to assume that our interlocutor is in possession of the truth.

Reacting with a defensive or aggressive attitude will only serve to break the bridges that lead to constructive dialogue. Instead, it is important to listen and confront from an assertive position. Listening to people with interest, even if they have a different opinion from ours, is the greatest proof of empathy, respect and assertiveness, the keys to avoiding irreconcilable antagonism. Sometimes others need to be heard, valued and understood.

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