A few days ago, I got involved in an argument on the Internet, which is never a good thing to do anyway. The argument focused on a character from one of my favorite TV shows, and the other person claimed this character had unrealistic and inconsistent abilities.

I decided to present a counter-argument, and the other person dismissed it, essentially saying that it was just my opinion and that it didn’t matter.


Now, an Internet argument about a fictional TV character doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things, but the opinion this person holds does.

In today’s world of conflicting opinions and values, we cannot afford to dismiss others’ opinions without a second thought. To do so encourages conflict, inhibits cooperation, and invites ignorance and intolerance.

Take, for example, the current debate about gun control. Those in favor of increased restriction say tighter gun control will promote public safety and reduce the number of shootings.

Those against increased restriction say it is a violation of Second Amendment rights and that fewer guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens will make our country more dangerous, not less.

What about the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare? Some say it will help more Americans get the health care they need, while others say it violates individual rights.

Take just about anything, from the most complex international conflict to the latest blockbuster release, and you’ll probably find just as many opinions about it as there are people involved. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Differing opinions can make life interesting and help people understand one another — but only if they’re willing to listen.

Opinions are based on reasoning and belief, and the better people understand others’ perspectives, the better they will be able to make decisions and cooperate with each other.

Willingness to listen to and understand opposing viewpoints shows respect, even if the people involved still don’t agree.

This is just as important in individual relationships as it is in politics and national dialogue. Friends and family members disagree from time to time, and if they seek to understand the other’s viewpoints, conflicts can be resolved without hard feelings.

If, however, we are unwilling to listen to a viewpoint that’s different from our own, we may find ourselves in a difficult situation. Without understanding, persuasion and compromise become all but impossible. Without understanding, intolerance reigns and conflict arises.

This is why we can’t afford to brush off people who disagree with us.

Have you ever seen a husband or wife ignoring the other’s thoughts and views? Have you heard of a congressman or U.N. ambassador telling another that his or her opinion doesn’t matter?

Whether we agree or not, we should at least try to understand the views of those who disagree with us.

It may not change our opinions, but it will at least help us understand each other.