unfriendIt is blatantly obvious that people are getting their feelings hurt a lot lately. Whether it is a disagreement over politics, religion, social views, affiliations with groups, or whatever the ideology; emotions are running high. This is not beneficial to anybody. It is not productive. It honestly comes across as childish.

We all have opinions that are our own. Sometimes they align with those of other people and sometimes they are unique; however, they are always ours. When my opinion is not one that is harmful (i.e. kids should only be fed fast food); it should not impact the way you feel about me or determine how we interact with each other. Opinions are how we feel based on our own perspective from how we are raised and the research we do on a topic. They are not who you are; they are what you believe.

If I stated I think is Democrats are ruining this country, it will cause different reactions. Those who agree will be all about it and those who disagree will be angry threaten to “un-friend” me. Beliefs and opinions are our own. We shouldn’t get angry because someone disagrees and we certainly should not disrespect one another. To contrast this, if I stated that the atmospheric pressure at sea level is 14.7 pounds per square inch, there are not too many people who would argue this with fire in their veins. Sure, some may say it is actually 14.6959 pounds per square inch or even some who prefer it on the Pascal scale, but almost no one would disassociate with me over this. That is because this is a scientific fact that can be proven.

Sticking with the political theme in the spirit of election season…no matter how hard we try, we can’t prove that Democrats are better than Republicans. Even if we go to the history books and look for all the great things each party has done, there is still no clear winner. These “victories” are based on perspective. A government regulation that benefits a majority of the nation, still impacts some sectors. Bottom-line is that we all think differently about different things.

Why then, do we get so heated over this stuff? We see things through a certain lens and have so much difficulty adjusting these views. Even when a solid argument challenges a belief, we are skeptical and often discount it as poppycock. This is why I personally try not to get into these debates. I know I am not going to change the core belief of another person. At best, I can try to get them to understand why I feel a certain way; however, they are not likely to change their point-of-view. It is also why I try not to post my opinions on politics or other deeply rooted beliefs on social media. Once we share how we feel, we have to expect that others will also share their views. By posting how we feel, we just invited a conversation that will cause arguments and fights and all will leave the discussion with the same view they entered it with. There is no point.

As Airmen and professionals, we do need to share and discuss our thoughts on a variety of topics that impact our mission. This is where we need to spend our time and energy in order to make a difference for our team. This also requires a slightly different approach. There are many times where I disagreed with my supervisor or commander and offered my advice. Most of the time, my advice solved the problem or at least added to the overall solution. Sometimes, my advice was not heeded at all. There were many occasions where I felt very passionate about my views and argued till I was blue in the face, but it did not change anything except maybe their view of me and willingness to seek my advice in the future.

In all occasions, the mission still moved forward and we dealt with the consequences as a team. It took me a while to comprehend that my ideas were not always the best and that some of the solutions I presented were difficult for my boss to grasp at the time. I did learn that it is ok to disagree and most of the time it was welcomed. Seeing problems from different perspectives is very beneficial. It helps us to better understand the second and third order effects or even helps to create an entirely different solution.

Disagreeing is a good thing when there is time. When in the thick of it, we need to toe the line and discuss our thoughts later when we have a chance. I have not worked for a single commander who did not want my honest opinion even when it went against the grain. I learned it is ok to disagree, but it is never ok to disrespect. Tact is easy when speaking up the chain of command; however, we have to remember this when communicating down the chain also.

We want open communication with our team because they are trying to do what they think is best based on their perspectives. If I disagree with them, I do my best to communicate why. This enables them to understand where I am coming from and maybe they can poke a hole in my reasoning. Ultimately they are often the ones doing the work and feeling the impact of my decision, the very least I could do is hear them out before pulling the trigger.

It is vital to remember that we are not going to change the core beliefs of another. We need to think about the arguments we are about to engage in and choose our battles wisely. I personally choose not to argue over politics or things of that nature and will save my opinions for topics that I may be able to affect change. Whether you agree or not and whether you are willing to argue over random topics, just remember that because you disagree does not give you the right to disrespect.