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Coping with people you disagree with
People have all sorts of funny views.

Some people think that capital punishment is a good thing. Some people think that the government can spend its way out of a recession. Some people support abortion. Some people are happy that those on benefits should pay income tax. Some people think that football is worth watching. Some people believe in organised religion. Some people think that socialism is a good thing. Some people like going to nightclubs. Some people think that immigrants are taking their jobs. Some people think that Windows is a sane choice of operating system. Some people have no respect for age and experience. Some people like watching reality TV. Some people think that the monks who make Buckfast should be blamed for Glaswegians being unable to drink sensibly. Some people think there is an international Jewish conspiracy controlling the world’s entertainment and finance industries. Some people vote for the Liberal Democrats.

I don't agree with them. But I don’t let it bother me.

But how do you react to people with whom you have a fundamental political, moral, or cultural disagreement? Do you:

Smile, welcoming the rich variety of people that make up the world.
Patronise them, and assume that as an intelligent person they will grow out of their daft views, and as they become enlightened they will of course agree with you.
Educate them. Convince them through argument and coercion how they are wrong, and make them mend their ways.
Get angry, refuse to have them as a friend, and wonder how so-called intelligent people could think like that. Call them stupid.
Form a pressure group and organise protests against that repellent viewpoint. People who think like that should be banned, or locked up, or thrown out of the country. Call them evil.

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(Deleted comment)
I take pride in heartily disagreeing with the views of friends and colleagues, while still appreciating their company. It must be dreadfully dull to surround oneself with like-minded people.

I am just amazed that there is so much hate so easily expressed. People claim that their political opponents are stupid or evil. People organise protests against behaviour and beliefs of others. The world seems to be built upon confrontation.

Education without coercion is always possible. Or is that just being hopelessly optimistic?

Education without coercion relies on a willing student. Where firm beliefs are held, I would suspect that one is seldom open to being reeducated.

No, I don't think it necessarily does. Sometimes firm beliefs are based on an error so huge (or bizarre) that when it is finally illuminated the believer can't help but see the problem - it doesn't mean they were willing to see it or to listen to argument.

You may be right in many or most cases; but there's an approach often referred to as "Strong Beliefs, Weakly Held", which may be productive, and to me seems worth aspiring to. Once you've formed a belief, be prepared to take decisions on that basis and stand up for decisions and belief when they're opposed; but be prepared to listen to the opposition and change your belief without fuss if the case is good.

It's supposed to be particularly appropriate in software development where decisions are often taken for what seem good reasons but later turn out to be wrong or ineffective. In principle it seems like it should be good in other areas too, but as you say it depends on a willing listener. (I think "student" establishes too many rigid expectations of an ongoing student/teacher relationship, when the roles could easily be reversed next time.)

I wasn't comfortable with any of the options, but I selected the three that came closest. A free text response might have been something like "Welcome the rich variety of people that make up the world. Assume that as an intelligent person they will grow out of their daft views, and as they become enlightened they will of course agree with you. Convince them through discussion that there may be a better way." My depth of response would vary depending on the subject.

But Macs are just wrong ;-)

Mostly I just smile, and look puzzled.

Mostly I smile and nod politely, while I quietly determine which topics are off limits with that person.

On the basis of this (highly representative and scientific :-) poll, then, four people out of five would not be prepared to enagage positively with someone in an attempt to change their views? But they might sneer at them.

We all make that decision some, or even most, of the time, but what hope is there for civilised discussion and debate, if that's how most folk feel about it?

It would be interesting to see whether removing the word "coercion" from option 3 would change the result.

Maybe it is because we have learned that it isn’t worth arguing with people we disagree with; an easier and more peaceful path is just to accept them as they are (and hope that changes in their views come from within).

I’m trying to square our reactions to disagreement — to tolerate, to accept, and perhaps to gently mock — with the public response of protest, anger, and hatred. Where does this fit with people’s professed hatred of the evil Thatcher or the warmonger Blair, or their belief that Bush is stupid, or the protest marches against the BNP organised by the Anti-Nazi League?

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I'm glad you allowed multiple answers, because it depends on my mood and the situation.

Oh yes, mood, situation, and topic all have an impact on one’s tolerance.

Something I hadn’t considered in the answers was being too lazy to argue with someone — tolerance through indolence is an interesting concept.

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