Two friends talking in a cafe

What happens when you force an opinion on other people? Does everyone have to agree on the same thing in a group?

Brené Brown says that the instinct to find like-minded people becomes counterproductive when everyone must agree on everything. This type of thinking leads to unnecessary policing and self-monitoring to make sure no one’s stepping out of alignment with the group.

Continue reading to further learn why forcing opinions on others hurts friend groups.

Self-Monitoring and Policing Opinions Within a Group

Forcing opinions on others makes people feel less connected and afraid to express themselves honestly because inclusion in the group is conditional—it relies on conformity. For example, say you have a friend group that generally agrees on big political issues. However, when the issue of climate change comes up, you find that you have slightly different opinions:  Your friends believe that the government should enforce strong regulations in the energy industry, and while you agree that policy reforms are important, you also worry about the economic implications of the policies they advocate. In this scenario, you might feel afraid to express your opinion, thinking the others will be offended by your stance and won’t want you in their friend group. As a result, you feel isolated and uneasy because you’re hiding part of yourself. 

(Shortform note: Brown focuses on the individual impact of feeling the pressure to conform—the way it makes you feel isolated and afraid of being rejected by the group. However, research unveils another reason it’s important to allow for disagreement: Dissent increases group creativity and improves decision-making. For example, by discussing different viewpoints on climate change policies, your friend group might come up with new possibilities that no one had considered before. This suggests that both you as an individual and the group can benefit from encouraging different opinions.) 

In addition, Brown suggests that if you’re making other people feel like they shouldn’t openly disagree with you, this prevents you from understanding that despite our differences, we’re all connected to one another as humans. This is because if you’re policing others’ opinions, you’re focusing on what divides us rather than the underlying values that unite us. For example, returning to the climate policy example, the opinions of you and your friends likely stem from the same underlying value of compassion: You want to avoid job loss due to policy changes, and your friends want to mitigate the impact of climate change on people. 

(Shortform note: In Crucial Conversations, Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, and Emily Gregory provide tips that may help avoid this interpersonal disconnection that Brown describes and counteract the tendency to police other people’s opinions. One strategy they recommend is making people feel comfortable disagreeing with you by describing your viewpoint in a tentative, non-dogmatic way. For example, you can use phrases like “It seems like…” rather than “The fact is…” By softening your language, you signal that you’re open to challenges and you’re not trying to force your opinions on others. You can also explicitly invite opposing views by proactively asking “What am I missing?”)

Why Forcing Opinions on Others Only Destroys Friendships

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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