Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you find it hard to tolerate someone’s actions or words. Try to understand where each person is coming from, and avoid making it into a personal battle. You can try to develop a more tolerant outlook by learning about different people, developing confidence in yourself, and coming to appreciate difference.
Tolerating Others in Difficult Situations
Try to empathize. A good first step to tolerating others in a tricky situation is making a conscious effort to empathize with him, and trying to see things from his perspective. You may have very different backgrounds and experiences to draw on, so what seems obvious to you might seem strange or alien to someone else.
Ask for an explanation. If you are talking to someone and they say something that you find hard to accept, you can figure out the other person’s perspective without being intolerant or aggressive. Try to gain a better understanding of someone else’s views by asking him or her to explain it to you.
- You might say something like, “Ok, tell me more about that. What makes you think that?”
- If you do this you are being tolerant by not dismissing him or her outright and you are attempting to understand something that you find difficult.
- Remember that tolerance does not mean accepting unacceptable behavior.
Ignore your differences. One way to deal with a difficult situation is just to try to ignore your differences. This is a more negative kind of tolerance than learning to accept and value difference, but it can be useful. To do this you would have to avoid certain topics of conversation, or swiftly change the subject when necessary.
Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements. If you find yourself in a conversation with someone and you are struggling to maintain civility, it can help to avoid making accusations or assumptions about the person you are talking to. You can do this by using “I” statements instead of “you” statements. This can help to de-escalate any personal animosity and may help you be more open to each other’s viewpoints.
- For example, if you are talking about schools giving teenagers contraception, you might say “I think it’s sensible for schools to make contraceptives available.” This is a tolerant way of expressing your opinion.
- Avoid making “you” statements such as, “You’re stupid for thinking that schools shouldn’t give out contraception.”
Address a conflict. If you are struggling to empathize or ignore the situation, and you are finding it hard to tolerate, you can try to address it to reach some kind of resolution. If you are good friends with someone and you don’t want this intolerance to de-rail your friendship, it’s worth making the effort to find a solution together. Everyone involved will need to be prepared to make an effort and participate fully.
- You should start by calmly describing what you find offensive or intolerable in each other’s behavior or views. For example, “I don’t agree with your stance on gun control.”
- You will then need to try to get a better understanding of each other’s cultural perceptions. You might do this by asking something like, “What experiences led you to develop your ideas about gun control?”
- You should then explain how the issue would be dealt with in each other’s culture or view. You might start by stating what you think the ideal situation might be and then allow the other person to do the same. For example, you might start by saying something like, “I think that we should make it harder to obtain guns because…”
- Then you can begin to negotiate a way forward that takes account of and respects your differences. This will be easier if there is a misunderstanding of each other’s behavior, than if you hold more or less incompatible views. For example, you might start by saying something like, “While I don’t agree with your views, I do have a better understanding of them. Now that I know the reasons behind your beliefs, it is easier for me to understand your point of view and I am willing to move forward.”