Remembering that Other People’s Opinions Matter

Sean Baumstark avatar

by Sean Baumstark |

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I’m certain there are many things everyone can agree on: Planet Earth is round, what goes up must come down, and pineapple does not belong on pizza. You see, inarguable, right?

Although many might agree, there are strong believers that our planet is flat and some who are convinced that pizza was created to complement pineapples.

Absurd, I know. Pepperoni is the only important pizza topping. However, this goes to show that we each have an opinion, a worldview, a perspective that is different from others. Naturally, we tend to gravitate toward those who have opinions and beliefs similar to our own.

The reinforcement from others of our own opinions and attitudes also tends to support a narrow-mindedness that can be hard to recognize. For this reason, I personally value the friendships I have that challenge my thought process or my opinion. I purposefully cultivate some level of friendship with people who think differently than I do. I intentionally seek out their input or feedback, expecting them to help me think about something I may not have considered on my own.

I have found that my willingness to see someone else’s point of view has only served to make me better. Their opinion or perspective compared to mine isn’t about one of us being right and the other being wrong. Instead, the exchange of dialogue and the willingness to consider another thought process allows me to be more understanding, more empathetic, and usually more patient or gracious.

Many of my friends use wheelchairs due to Friedreich’s ataxia, and there were things I never thought of until they shared their perspectives. I never knew what a curb cut was or just how imperative they are until my friend Kyle pointed to the lack of curb cuts when we were traveling together a few years ago.

I can sometimes label my own conclusions or assumptions as wrong or ill-informed, usually with the help of someone or something enlightening me. Other times, different opinions or thought processes aren’t as easy to come by. Just consider headlines or mass media. Think about all the stories you are not personally attached to or involved with.

We’d all probably agree that there are at least two sides to every story, but we tend to align ourselves with the side of the story we hear, or read, first. Or perhaps, we align ourselves with a story that reinforces what we already believe, feel, or think — a social behavior some psychologists refer to as confirmation bias.

It’s usually helpful when someone we trust or have a connection to helps us see a different side of a story. We allow trusted sources to expand our thinking and our conclusions. It’s an exercise I believe is important to engage in whether we have built trust with the source or not. Trusted or unknown, the process helps achieve the same result: a better, stronger understanding.

The headlines in our world, or better yet, the stories that take place, will continue to invoke joy, sadness, fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, and so much more. The feelings we feel aren’t wrong. They aren’t right, either. They just simply are. Those feelings are what push people into action, though, and not all actions are safe or right.

It’s important to stretch our own perspectives by allowing another to simply coexist with ours, if even just for a moment or two. This can be done from the comfort of your recliner or couch. You don’t always have to talk to someone who thinks differently than you. You can always search for more articles, op-eds, blogs, videos, etc. on the story that is capturing your attention.

With information at our fingertips, we don’t have an excuse for remaining close-minded.


Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


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