One of the greatest awakenings I think I have had in recent years is the concept of making a paradigm shift in how to receive criticism or take in opposing points of view. For most people, when they are criticized for something, even something minor, they respond defensively (“Well, I don’t normally do that … “) or they hurl back the value that was offered to them (“Let me tell you what YOU do poorly … “). Even worse, as we are seeing in current events, people try to shut down opposing points of view, not realizing that it is exactly this sort of feedback that can provide someone with greater insights and more self-awareness.

I think it’s important to learn to VALUE the people in your life who are willing to provide you with critical feedback or an opposing point of view. If you receive some critique that you disagree with, a simple “Thank you for sharing that” is enough to encourage the other person to continue giving you feedback in the future. Who knows? … next time, their ideas might change your life. We want to keep the doors OPEN to receive critical information that might reveal the “blind spots” in our lives. We should not strive to live in a homogenous society where everyone thinks and acts the same way. As I heard one pundit put it, people who are just looking for agreement everywhere are “substituting flattery of ego for the cultivation of character.”

For those of you reading this who are young, don’t have an expectation that you will be “protected” for life. The same walls that keep out the bad stuff keep out potentially great stuff as well. Think about what you can learn from opposing points of view, and also what you can learn about yourself. Don’t be like so many of these young students we are seeing on TV nowadays, who seem to want to be coddled and feel entitled to so many things they have not yet earned. Some of our “institutions of higher education” are seeming to me to be more like “institutions for celebrating mediocrity.” Watch out for this.

Last, for those of you who are in positions to influence and teach, remember this … The duty to educate does not walk out the door just because things get tense or uncomfortable. The uncomfortable moments are often the most important times to calmly utilize one’s skills of influence and help open people’s minds to opposing views and possibilities. All of us, whether 90 years old or 9 years old, have a current point of view. The ONLY way for us to grow and develop is to be presented with a new point of view in a way that helps us see, consider, and eventually agree with that new learning. That’s how we learned the world was not flat. That’s how we realized that our parents were right about a lot more things than we thought when we were 13 years old. That’s how we developed from children in adults. That’s the essence of growth and positive change.

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