There is one sure-fire way to keep everyone in the whole world happy: don’t have opinions.
I don’t like conflict. Confrontation makes me nervous. I used to think that the best way to keep everyone around me happy was to keep my mouth shut and nod politely at whatever the other person was saying. Obviously, this wasn’t ideal – and I knew that it wouldn’t be – but I thought I could endure any number of offensive or adverse opinions if it would keep me out of a shouting match with someone.
I’m not saying that in order to live peacefully we have to agree on everything. Healthy discourse is so important. Disagreeing is important. It’s part of how we broaden our ways of thinking and mould our ideas. However, it is unfortunate that with many people, when you challenge their ideas they become excessively defensive. Instead of having a constructive debate where both parties form strong arguments to defend their beliefs or point of view, the conversation becomes a game of who-can-force-their-point-across-the-loudest.
That is something I could definitely do without.
Which brings me back to the polite nodding. For the longest time, I resigned to keeping my mouth shut instead of putting up with someone’s unnecessary, fruitless fits of rage. And this might have worked had I not made a minor miscalculation. You can shut your mouth but you can’t shut down your brain.
The little things, like which brand of ice-cream is best, don’t matter, but I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to listen to people spew offensive and harmful garbage and not say anything against it. Besides that, when you’re casually nodding agreement at just about everything, you sort of start to forget what you believed in the first place. I had to ask myself if it was really worth saving myself from a few degrading words and sparing some energy when I was allowing people to promote and perpetuate harmful ideas unchecked. Was I not then part of the problem?
I’m still unlearning silence and relearning what I believe in. Sometimes I’m still hesitant to speak my mind for fear of the backlash. But silence taught me that even if you avoid external conflict, the battle within will continue… so why not say something?