Communication and conflict

I never fails to amaze me how often I see conflict arise out of communication – verbal and written – where one or other party fails to realise that we are all individuals and as such entitled to our personal opinions.

Many of the conflicts result from personal opinion where the hearer or the reader makes a judgement based on personal beliefs. If I as a reader make a judgment on something I read and then confront the writer and refute what has been said, based on my beliefs, I am wrong.

What is it that makes my beliefs, values and/or persuasions an better or more credible than those of another person?

Take some of the recent arguments related to religious beliefs or political beliefs that have appeared in the press and see the anger and conflict that has been created. This anger and conflict is caused because one person thinks and believes differently to the other and makes a judgment based on personal beliefs.

Who says a person is right just because they are of a particular religious persuasion or have particular political or other beliefs. Yes the Christian, for example, will say the Bible says so – but that in itself is a matter of personal opinion and personal belief.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not for one minute claiming the Bible is not authentic, so don’t now put words in my mouth. What I am saying is the authenticity of the Bible is a matter of personal belief as is the authenticity of the Koran or similar religious publications.

Similarly with political beliefs – just because I follow the DA, Cope the ANC or whatever does not make all other political persuasions wrong.

Where we fail is in being prepared to just listen to the opinions of others and to acknowledge the rights of others to express their opinions. We have no right to judge others based on their opinions because in doing so we make judgements based on our personal beliefs. Who in the first place said our beliefs were right?

When we listen to a discussion where we do not agree with the sentiments expressed we need to be prepared to say “I hear what you say but I do not agree with you for the following reasons”. We have no right to say you are wrong. The person with whom I am having this discussion also has a right to respond in similar vein and to state they disagree with me for a variety of reasons. They also have no right to say I am wrong. AS soon as someone says you are wrong there is conflict.

Many of our personal beliefs have been instilled from a very young age and we have been brought up with these beliefs. Many of our beliefs have been cultivated as part of our schooling, or church involvement or have been passed on by our parents. These are then the beliefs we choose to make an integral part of our lives and of our value systems – but this does not make them right.

There are millions of people in the world made up of a variety of political persuasions, religious beliefs, varying philosophies, patriotic affiliations and so on. Which one, what group or who is right? Ah, but what gives you the right to say that? Think about it.

None of us have the right to be judgemental of others or to claim exclusivity in terms of thinking and belief. This in my opinion is where we all go wrong. We fail to accept the world is made up of individuals, each of whom has freedom of choice, freedom of expression and the right to individual beliefs and persuasions. After all this is the main difference between man and animals – man has freedom of choice.

If we could accept, or at least consider this thinking and strive to communicate without causing conflict the world would be a much better place.

Des Squire (Managing Member)
Amsi and Associates cc

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