Have you ever had a friend who could talk about anything? It’s a remarkable experience.
For many years, I had a friend like that. We held substantially different opinions on many political and social issues. We had prioritized values differently, but we could talk civilly about these topics. My friend set the example. We deeply trusted and even admired each other and civilly disagreed. He could articulate why he ranked one value above another.
Those conversations changed me. I hope I’m a bit more courteous and understanding when I encounter people with alternative views.
Conversations like these are rare. There are many things that work to undermine and overwhelm it.
Sometimes, our communication skills are the problem
I learned a lot from my friend, and I’ve worked hard to improve my emotional intelligence and communication skills. I’m better than I once was, but far, far from where I want to be. Often, when I have a communication problem, I discover that I’m the cause.
Sometimes, culture plays a role
Our culture is “the way we do things around here.” It’s the values we assume without thinking too much about them. In a way, we are prisoners of those values because we are unaware that they are unconscious choices.
We may be conscious of differences when we travel outside our country. We’ve been warned to take great care with how we do some routine things. But the United States is a multicultural country, and so we often have problems communicating with other people because we’ve each been raised in a different culture. Some people claim that each marriage is a bit of a cross-cultural relationship.
The world around us makes it harder
Years ago, a friend suggested I watch a TED talk he called “Wrongology.” Katheryn Schulz spoke about what she learned writing Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. It was one of the most profound revelations of my adult life.
Schulz described how many of us act when we encounter someone who disagrees with us. First, we assume that the person is poorly informed. We think that once we explain the truth, they will understand and agree with us.
Thinking that way kills communication, and it seems to become more common every day. I see it more and more on social media and in regular conversations.
You and your friends change every year
Sometimes, you move in the same direction at nearly the same pace. You and your friend may grow and change in different directions. Either of you may change your mind about what’s most important. Something may happen in your life that changes things.
If you have a friend you can talk to about anything, that’s a precious gift.
How do you communicate respectfully and effectively with a peer, a friend, or a relative who prioritizes values differently?
Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.”