Tolerance and the diversity of opinions

Guest contribution by | 08.06.2020

Corona changes the lives and work of many people, families and companies. Some people and organisations see opportunities in Corona, which they want to seize and use for sustainable change. Others struggle every day with major problems, financial challenges, limitations or personal conflicts. And certainly many people, families and companies simply want to return to “normality”, i.e. to the life, rules and procedures they were used to.

How is that with you? In the current crisis, do you perhaps feel called upon to take more initiative and responsibility for your own actions in the context of self-care? Do you perhaps wish to have more information, the potential of which suggests a profound knowledge? Or are you satisfied with the status quo?

I would like to see less stubbornness and ignorance, and more tolerance and exchange of opinions. As a society, in families and in companies.

Opinions and disagreements

As in many situations, people are taking a bilateral view in this crisis. There are those who are tolerant and sovereign in dealing with different opinions and views, but there are also those who believe they have a tenant of the truth and stoically insist on their view of things. Often representatives of the second group act like missionaries, who try – for example in meetings – to convince people with different opinions of their views. It is not really surprising that this often leads to a spiral in which everyone insists on their opinion.

In such situations I have made the experience that a different approach is much more effective:

  • Don’t throw your opinions in the face of the person you are talking to like a wet rag.
  • Instead, ask questions like “Why do you think this is so and so?” or “How can you explain this and that?”

The advantage of asking questions is that you can steer opponents. If someone answers questions, he or she usually has to think about it. If you notice that you don’t get any answers or conclusive answers, you can score points in the conversation by providing information, with understandable facts and good arguments. This is the only way to convince other participants of your arguments and your expertise without missionising.

Movement and counter movement

There are constantly new topics, conflicts and problems – but rarely has there been such an omnipresent topic that has attracted so much global attention as the current pandemic and the crisis it has triggered. Personally, I am glad that we in Germany live in a democracy in which different opinions and points of view are allowed to exist. And even if some people may find it difficult, the diversity of opinions results in a plurality of views, which sometimes makes for a colourful variety of discussions.

If opinions and points of view are not listened to, they will be expressed more loudly and with more emphasis over time. Depending on the strength of the movement, a strong countermovement crystallises. In fact, it can often be observed that people in discussions try to address a problem for which there must be exactly one trigger or culprit to be found in order to identify a single, true solution.

In my experience, there are constructive approaches which take a different, better path and which also lead to a different, better result:

  • Don’t look for the guilty parties, but for ways that best lead out of a crisis, a problem or a challenge.
  • Consciously try to unite all sides for a verbal exchange in the sense of finding a constructive solution.

Of course, it sounds easy when I, for example, wish that people sit down at one table and exchange their different opinions in a calm, tolerant and intelligent way. And of course there are a lot of reasons that influence people and their behaviour: a hurt ego, self-interest, fears, the desire for control, power, the need to be right, arrogance or pride. Many of these motives lead to new demands, to pressure in the search for culprits, and through the juxtaposition of right and wrong, to winners and losers. In my practice as a conflict manager, I have even observed that without a consensus-oriented discussion and without the exchange of expertise and perspectives, all participants lose, even those who seem to emerge as winners from a discussion.

Conflicts follow patterns

I started the article by asking you how you feel, especially in times of Corona, with the challenges, problems or opportunities. I have the feeling that there are a lot of nooks and crannies right now. People and opinions literally clash, and – at least in my perception – there are very intense conflicts. Even in places where interpersonal relationships seemed to work well, the blessing of the house sometimes gets into trouble.

In some cases conflicts can be traced back to simple reasons. For example, people are emotionally very stressed. Prohibitions of contact, changed situations, existential fears … especially in times of crisis many factors come together which are not normal and cannot be planned. Many people get into stress and as a result they are tense and irritable. This leads to conflicts much faster than usual. The good news is that conflicts follow patterns. If you recognise these patterns, you can resolve the conflicts:

  1. Conflict spiral: What starts with the exchange of data, facts and arguments leads to a defensive attitude or fight through a (supposed) attack. This is followed by anger, resentment, blame, accusations, ego, injuries, pride, stubbornness, power, control, being right, greed, profit – depending on which people are in conflict with each other. If you are aware of the conflict spiral, you can leave it.
  2. Reciprocity: This phenomenon is also explained by “as you do me, so I do you”. Example: The wife works in the home office and looks after the children at the same time, as the day care centre is closed. She is already irritable in the morning and grumbles at her husband. The husband takes the annoyance with him to the office and distributes it to the first employees he meets, and they pass the annoyance on to other colleagues in the course of the day. They then take it home with them in the evening. And while the “real” cause of the conflict apologises to her husband in the evening for the injustice, her anger spreads further around the colleagues and their families.
  3. Self-initiative: Looking for blame outside does not get us anywhere – what helps instead is to look for constructive solutions.
  4. Personal responsibilityP: Within the framework of our own self-care, we should communicate and act as we would like our counterpart to do. If we wish for profound communication and appreciative mindfulness, we should learn to listen. The best conversational partners are good listeners.
  5. Constructive tools: Questions guide conversations. Good listening creates solidarity. Superficiality gives way to meaningfulness.


My appeal for more tolerance

I would like to close this article with an appeal. An appeal for more tolerance. Tolerance for other opinions and also the value of other opinions. The diversity of opinions can be a great tool to find new ways and discover new solutions. For this it is important to remember what is really VALUABLE. For many people these are for example

  • Recognition
  • Mindfulness
  • Attention
  • Appreciation

It is presumptuous to expect anything from others, we ourselves were not practicing. We can all learn – and should learn. Whether we are German Chancellor, Prime Minister, Professor ,Virologist, Head of Department, Developer, Product Manager or Doorman – it is never too late to change conflicts and crises through constructive conflict management. It is never too late for tolerance of diverging opinions.



Stephanie Huber has published more posts in the t2informatik Blog, including

t2informatik Blog: Argue - but do it right

Argue – but do it right

t2informatik Blog: Avoid unnecessary conflicts

Avoid unnecessary conflicts

t2informatik Blog: Respectful interaction

Respectful interaction

Stephanie Huber

Stephanie Huber

Stephanie Huber is founder and managing director of konSENSation GmbH. She works enthusiastically as a mediator with a focus on business mediation and conflict management and helps companies and executives to improve the working atmosphere.