Do You Get Angry at People When They Disagree with You?
What does this tell them about you?
Posted Jan 12, 2021
Some individuals get so angry when others disagree with them that extreme behaviors may occur. This can include physical violence, verbal abuse, or humiliation. Other individuals are comfortable and respectful to those with whom they disagree. This blog post will explain why some individuals get angry with others who disagree with them while others do not.
The ability to accept and associate with people with diverse perspectives is a form of tolerance. Individuals who are capable of high levels of tolerance enjoy a greater level of well-being and hence mental health. Their ability to accept, and sometimes embrace, opinions that are different from their own lets them enjoy high levels of flexibility, as they can be comfortable in almost any environment and in any group of people. They are not threatened by the fact that other people think differently than they do; thus, they are generally more comfortable around people.
Because tolerant individuals are not threatened by differing opinions or lifestyles, they tend to be less competitive with others and do not seek to change other people’s opinions or perspectives. The focus on acceptance rather than competition enables greater intimacy and makes relationships more satisfying and healthier.
Tolerance for others is expressed by honoring those opinions of others that are different from your own. This can be done through acceptance, interest, and accommodation. This is illustrated in the following dialogue between two delivery drivers.
Reggie: Hey Fred, can you work for me this Friday night?
Fred: I serve as a deacon at my church on Friday nights.
Reggie: I didn’t know that you were religious.
Fred: I have been that way all of my life.
Reggie: It must be nice to have spirituality in your life that regularly.
Fred: It is uplifting.
Reggie: Why don’t we just arrange our schedules so that I work every Friday night, and you can work Saturday nights?
Fred: That would be great! Thank you.
The anger that some individuals experience when others disagree with them is caused by their being hurt by the differing opinion or lifestyle. This is demonstrated in the following conversation between Vera and Brian right after they saw a movie together.
Brian: That was one of the best movies I have ever seen. I found it moving and believable.
Vera: I could barely stand to sit through it.
Brian: You didn’t like it?
Vera: What was there to like? I found it uninteresting and the acting was weak.
Brian: You don’t know what you are talking about.
Vera: Only someone simple-minded would enjoy a movie like that.
Brian: You think I am simple-minded?
Vera: No, I think the movie was simple-minded.
Brian: Next time I'll just go to the movies by myself!
In the above example, Brian took it personally that Vera did not like the movie that he liked and pushed Vera away because of it. Brian acted like it was his movie and became defensive by Vera’s candid expression of her opinion of a movie. Why does Brian feel this way?
Brian is threatened by Vera’s differing opinion of the movie because he finds it invalidating. When people feel invalidated, they feel like they are crazy, stupid, or wrong for their beliefs and they take this as an insult. Then they get angry—and sometimes, they lash out.
"Gay-bashing" is an extreme example in which some straight individuals feel so threatened by a different lifestyle that they feel the need to attack the lifestyle and those who participate. This is a very unhealthy state and is toxic for individuals as well as society as a whole.
Intolerant individuals, like Brian, depend on others to validate them by agreeing with them and behaving as they do. They require that others mirror them in order to be okay with themselves and hence in order to get along.
Tolerant individuals are self-validating. They trust themselves to know when they are making good decisions and behave consistently in a manner that they are proud of. They do not look to others to boost their sense of self-worth or value. They are more secure with themselves than intolerant individuals.
Intolerant individuals can become tolerant by learning how to self-validate rather than being dependent on others to tell them that they are not crazy, stupid, or wrong. How does one achieve the ability to self-validate? The following steps will provide a strategy.
- Thorough self-examination and self-reflection. You must be willing to look at yourself critically at all times so that you can be confident that you know yourself better than anyone else does.
- Brutal self-honesty. In order to validate yourself, you must trust yourself above all others. In order to achieve this level of self-trust and self-confidence, you must be honest with yourself at all times.
- Consistency. Your behavior must consistently reflect your adherence to your personal moral and ethical principles. The greater the consistency, the greater immunity to the opinions of others, and the greater capacity for tolerance you will have.
Mental Health and Societal Unity
As our culture becomes more diverse, the need for tolerance becomes more urgent. For individual mental health, we need increased tolerance of others so that we can be effective in different environments and diverse social situations. The tolerance is necessary both for interpersonal effectiveness and to experience intimacy. The uniting of our society as it becomes more diverse requires increased tolerance towards each other.
Increasing one’s tolerance of different opinions and lifestyles requires a facility in self-validation. By following the steps outlined above, you can increase your own personal mental health while at the same time making a contribution and participating in our diversifying culture.