Don't Impose Yourself

It is very frustrating to say the least. Here I am sitting across someone, trying to be a good listener while he rants on about his flawed and inaccurate perception over an issue that I clearly disagree upon. Except that, it’s not flawed for him. It’s flawed from my viewpoint.

We live in a world that’s getting smaller every day. It’s important to be tolerant of others’ cultures and values, recognizing that no one has the right to encroach on another’s freedom. We all had a time where we get a little too excited and direct and had unconsciously imposed upon on others, in a raw way!

We know how annoying it could be when someone tries to impose something on us that we don't care much about. But by whose definition do we decide what is right and acceptable? Who decides that the view presented is flawed, me or him?


Let's engage over a topic that you are truly passionate about — religion, lifestyle, or even morale. We heard the familiar saying, that sharing is caring. Of course, you care for your friends and family. You want the best for them. So you make it your responsibility to "help" them see from a "higher" perspective. You may even argue that surely this is not imposing because it is done with good intention, out of love. Who knows with enough pestering, you might just save their day!

It’s understandable to feel that way. As humans, we generally navigate based on learned experiences and personalized schema about how the world works. We constantly fall into patterns that help us survive and navigate through life but these patterns also limit us drastically. Within that limitation, we attempt to get our points across.

We share because we deeply want those we care about to get it right, at the same time feeling compelled to justify the validity of our conclusion. With that in mind, we end up nagging and convincing with logic in the hope that perhaps, they would reluctantly but finally concede.

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.

– Stephen R. Covey


The world we live in generously allows us to be who and what we want to be. But being “Me” does not mean imposing on others; rather it is the awareness of what you project and the motive behind your behavior.

These days, everyone seems to have an opinion about everything, biased or not. Debates are plentiful and are often interesting. Problems arise when we become closed-minded and start thinking that our way is the only true way.

What happens if we worked towards honestly listening to another’s perspective? When we hear someone speaking, we have to ask if we are really listening. Or are we busy constructing what should be coming out of our mouth next?


It requires a level of courage and compassion to be willing to hear out someone’s viewpoint even if you are not completely in agreement with them. Are you equipped to decide right and wrong for anyone other than yourself? Would you be willing to compromise on the values and beliefs you hold strongly? If someone chooses to go a certain way, as long as it doesn’t infringe on anyone’s freedom, isn’t that rightfully their choice to make?

You may think, but is that not ultimately self-serving if I know something to be right and kept it to myself? How can we strive towards better quality of life either as a family or community, if I am silent about something that I clearly know is better for them? And what if they found out later on that I am correct? I could have resolved the situation earlier and save someone from unnecessary distress.

Open-minded people don't impose their beliefs on others. They just accept all of life's perspectives and realities, doing their own thing in peace, without judgement.

– Unknown


Here's the thing. There is a difference between offering an opinion and imposing one. The former leaves the decision to them, the latter demands compliance. An opinion would be to present your perspective freely and allow the other party to mull it over. Whether or not he decides to accept is his choice to make. When you try to impose on others, you are trying to remove their choice and over-stepping your boundaries. We are all multi-faceted beings that are ever-changing with different perspectives influenced by different experiences, responsibilities, seriousness, desires, and so forth.

If we are honest, we've all been guilty of imposing onto others at one time or another. The more we try the more disjointed and broken our bonds become, leading to arguments and damaged relationships. It would not do much good especially if they are not ready.


Instead of concluding that they may be unreasonable or lacking understanding, the question should be, why are we imposing our values on them? Why can’t we simply accept that they are entitled to their opinion as well, never mind our good intention? The truth is people only hear what they want to hear no matter how much you say.

This does not mean that you should not speak out about your beliefs. Every individual is worthy of respect and the right to an opinion. No one sees from the same perspective and not every issue affects everyone the same way. If you don't agree, that's fine because they probably don't agree with you either. Don’t have to take it personally. Genuinely try to understand where they’re coming from.

Often, those who preach inclusion, diversity, and understanding of others' needs are also the ones that are quick to shut down and belittle everyone else when it comes to differing beliefs and opinions. We gain nothing by making others look bad and it accomplishes nothing meaningful except perhaps a momentary satisfaction of ‘being right’.


Take the higher ground. Remain open-minded. There are always ways we can compromise. What would be the point if you win an argument and ruin a relationship?

Successful communication is a two-way street. It requires that we put ourselves and our biases aside, to care enough to pay real attention. Let’s work on building connections and trust rather than the need to win at all costs.

It’s far better to listen to people’s desires and help them achieve those than to impose our own. Once you understand their predicament, you can offer them your best recommendation. He may not budge from his original standpoint, and you must accept that your recommendation at best, remains exactly that — a recommendation. Be willing to listen. Who knows you may even learn a thing or two? Should we be deprived of the luxury of adjusting our views?


Even if I am wholly convinced about a matter, and would very much hope that others would benefit from it the way I did, I’d have to remind myself that everyone is of a different personality type. It's perfectly ok if they don't see my views right now. There is no need to repeat something over and over because that does not make it true either. Uncomfortable as it may sound, I need to strive to better myself rather than trying to change others.


Let’s allow things to unfold and develop at its own pace. Trust the process. When the time is right, change will ensue through connection, exploration, and openness to the unexpected. It is through the imperfections of life that we learn, improve, and grow. If we take away this right, we are in effect taking away what it means to be human.

Life is a wonderful exploration of choices. Just as every type of music has its own rhythm, we learn to be more open and adaptive to different kinds of people and circumstances around us. Let’s be tolerant. With mutual understanding and respect, life will be much happier.

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