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The Value of Opposite Opinion

Since COVID-19 has been on our minds daily — let’s use the vaccination as an example. Are you supporting the need for everyone to be vaccinated against COVID-19? Maybe you’ve already been vaccinated. Maybe you’re still on the fence on what to do. Whatever your preference, now ask yourself which way your parents, family members, and friends support? How does that make you feel about your preference? No need to comment if you have or haven’t been vaccinated. But what evidence, research, and views are creating this preference for you? Think about it.

When we turn to research, it shows how people will conform to other people’s opinions because the social pressure is too great. It’s a proven fact that our opinions are stronger and more resistant to persuasion when our friends and family have the same opinions. A research team led by University of Winnipeg psychologist Jeremy Frimer, stated that we avoid listening to people with opposing ideas because its deeply root in our psychological needs of being accepted. If the community around us are believing in a certain thing than we must all be right. It is easy to retreat back to normal ideologies and gaslight someone else for an opposing opinion because it makes us too uncomfortable to see any other views.

In the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, a research team did an experiment with 202 Americans to determine who supported or opposed same-sex marriage. They gave the participants two options during this experiment. They could read a series of statements that supported their position, and answer some simple questions indicating their argument, and be entered into a drawing to win $7. Or they could read a series of statements supporting the opposite position, complete the same simple procedure, and be entered into a drawing to win $10.

63% of participants chose to give up a chance to win additional money to avoid hearing from the opposing side of their views. We need to acknowledge the depths of our beliefs and acknowledge that there could be discomfort if our views are challenged. Additional studies found this same dynamic with opposing sides.

When we allow fear to lead us, we are pushing away any other perspectives in our lives; shutting the door to other opportunties. Psychologists call this cognitive dissonance, the psychological discomfort that arises from simultaneously holding two opposing beliefs. Naturally, we let go of the opposing view and cling tight to our so-called normal view because that is what is comfortable for us.

We need to stop living in fear and be okay with a little discomfort. Think about it, what could go wrong if you sat and actively listened to an opposing view? I know I have listened to several opposing views the past few weeks and I am still the same person that I was the day before. Did these opposing views change my beliefs? Not necessarily. I now have a wider view of perspectives that have fuel my determination of whether or not my view is still solid enough to belief.

Considering the views of people whose views are shaped by different cultures, socioeconomic statuses, and ethical frameworks require us to step out of our comfort zones in a very real and authentic way. We need to acknowledge the depths of our differences, and accept the discomfort of having our assumptions challenged.

There is value in the opposing opinion because it challenges us to really dig deep within ourselves to know if we are acting out of discomfort, follow other’s beliefs, or do we have enough solid evidence to stay true to our beliefs even if someone else doesn’t agree.

There is enough evidence out there — search and find for yourself what you think you should or shouldn’t do in any given situation. Allow yourself to find at least three different sources before you make a solid decision. Make sure these sources are combined with ones that you may feel uncomfortable with; having an opposing opinion from yours. Knowledge is power and the more you have of it, the more your decisions will be built on self-awareness backed with solid evidence of why you are choosing what you are choosing without being led by others.