Health care reform, abortion, immigration, US involvement in the Middle East, changes to marriage laws and religious freedoms.

These are examples of highly emotional issues that have been on the public agenda in America these past few years. It’s likely that you have an opinion on most of these topics. Some of your opinions may be stronger than others because the issue is more important to you.

Do you feel comfortable openly expressing your views on these issues? Or, do you remain silent when these topics are brought up and keep your opinions to yourself? If you fall into the second camp, are you looking for a way to find your voice when faced by opposition?

Social media allows us to share some of the deepest and most polarizing opinions with the push of a button. The ease of challenging others or upholding values while masked by an online identity is convenient, but such an environment could also lead us to miscommunicate, dehumanize others, or come across more harshly than we mean to. That’s why we need to ask the question: can our preference for online communicating hinder us when it comes to engaging in person on hotly-debated topics?

Having a round table discussion may prove as a more worthy and personal way of discussing differing opinions. For topics warranting more time and care, round tables remind us that behind every opinion is a human with feelings, a face with a background, and a soul worth listening to.

Participating in these personal, sometimes confrontational, discussions can be difficult, especially when we can anticipate that we’ll be met with someone who doesn’t agree with us or holds a stance that is opposite of ours. We may not prefer situations like this for a few reasons: if we need extra time to process, if we sort thoughts better by writing, or if the thought of intentionally approaching someone with whom we disagree brings on anxiety. On top of all of that, physical distance can make having an in-person discussion near impossible in some cases.

However, which better helps us grow and widen our horizons — continuing to be affirmed by people who always agree with us, or offering to be challenged and questioned by people who don’t?