Politics is filled with conflicting opinions, and that’s healthy

Sure, conflict is uncomfortable. But if we’re not exposed to it occasionally, how will we ever get more comfortable being uncomfortable?

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volunteer conflictsSaskatchewan Premier Brad Wall recently announced he was retiring from politics. This news came as a crushing blow to my husband, although neither one of us has ever lived in that province.

Why did he take the news so hard?

In his opinion, Wall was the last political leader willing to stand up for national values even when they weren’t the most popular. My husband has conservative values and these were often in alignment with Wall.

Now before you start telling me how Wall may or may not have performed well, let me just say, politics is filled with conflicting opinions. I would never want to run for office as I doubt my ego could handle the constant criticism and polarized reactions that go on every day.

My husband’s opinion may not mesh with yours. That doesn’t make him the only person who feels this way. (Just no one else has a wife exposing it to the world.)

No, he’s not against immigration or the well-being of indigenous people. He is, however, exhausted by the barrage of demands for individualized rights. If you ask him, he would say make all bathrooms unisex – stalls for everyone. Stop blaming the past and start resolving the present. Everyone who can work, should work and contribute fairly to our country’s economic viability. What is considered fair practice in one province ought to be fair in all provinces. Fix the software and pay your employees for the work they’ve done. The list goes on, but I better stop before tackling hydroelectric projects and pipelines.

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I get it, these are not the most popular thoughts and so they rarely get shared out loud. In fact, many of my friends and colleagues would tell me I shouldn’t have written about them in this column. “It will open Pandora’s box and make you look bad,” they would say.

Now isn’t that the real problem when it comes to conflicting opinions? Most of us will do anything to avoid rousing negative feedback or bad press.

We enjoy feeling good. We want positive feedback and responses that leave us smiling. Positive emotions give us feelings of security, power and confidence. Negative emotions can promote fear, insecurity, depression, and lack of or low confidence.

Do you remember watching amoebas in science class? Under the magnifying glass, you could see these tiny organisms move between negative and positive emotions. They would move toward food and away from heat. People are the same way, in theory. We move toward success, freedom and happiness, leaving behind rejection or embarrassment.

When it comes to politics, our leaders struggle with popular versus unpopular decision-making. A popular decision will leave them feeling good and happy, with lots of pats on the back telling them they’re doing a good job. Taking a tougher stance will garner anger and frustration. If it were you, which decision would you make?

Sure, conflict is uncomfortable. But if we’re not exposed to it occasionally, how will we ever get more comfortable being uncomfortable?

Instead of avoiding talking about politics, what if we embraced it at social events and simply agreed to be curious about others’ points of view? Without this exposure, we may lose our ability to be discerning. We may simply nod our heads and go back to watching funny cat videos on YouTube.

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That’s not the leader I want. I want to follow someone whose knees have been skinned and whose nose has been bloodied. Without differing viewpoints, our objectivity and problem-solving skills are at risk.

If we keep in mind the particular problem we’re striving to solve, we can embrace more curiosity about unfamiliar ideas. This doesn’t mean we have to adopt them. Just stay curious and focused on not taking things so personally.

My husband believed that Brad Wall was a competent leader who was willing to speak out even if his opinion was unpopular. That took courage. For that, Wall, good job – may you now retire in peace!

Troy Media Columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications. 

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