Abortion.

You likely just thought of one of two labels: “pro-choice” or “pro-life.” Your opinion of these labels determines which side is considered a monster.

I used to think about this issue along similar lines. I used to believe that my cause was just, my reasoning was secure and my opposition was evil.

My stance on the abortion issue hasn’t changed. But now, I refuse to vilify and hate those who think differently than I do. This didn’t happen because someone convinced me that my position was wrong. I got there by learning more about the power of dialogue

Nearly a year ago, I attended a film screening and workshop event hosted by Mormon Women for Ethical Government, or MWEG, and YOUnify in Salt Lake City, Utah. The film was “Public Enemies, Private Friends” (formerly known as “The Abortion Talks”), a documentary detailing the true story of how six women — leaders from both sides of the abortion issue — secretly came together in the aftermath of two deadly abortion clinic shootings in the 1990s and eventually paved the way to peace, understanding and friendship.

As I walked away that night, I too had found peace, understanding and a new kinship with others. I realized one very important truth: It doesn’t matter if we never agree. What matters is that I learn to see and value the other side — the other person — as fellow human beings.

None of the women in the film changed their positions on abortion. No new headway was made on compromising between sides. So why did it matter?

These six women proved to me that despite our differences, we truly can get along. The real issue with any political argument today is not which policy is right or which side should prevail. The real issue is whether or not we’re going to stop destroying ourselves by demonizing anyone who believes differently than we do.

This week is the National Week of Conversation, and so I’ve taken the time to reflect on how I’ve changed over the last year since that experience. I realized that belittling others and their opinions was only hurting myself. I pledged that night to immediately stop all behaviors that encouraged this harmful way of thinking. I have since strived to listen more sincerely to others — to ask for understanding, hold off on preconceived judgments and be open to new ideas. I have stopped using inflammatory language and started seeking peaceful discussion. I have viewed my so-called “enemies” with compassion and love.

As I’ve made these changes, all of my relationships have improved, not just those strained by differing opinions. I have found it easier to connect with new people, renew old friendships and strengthen ties to my family and close friends. I have felt my heart grow and my soul enlarge as I have become a better person, a better communicator and a better citizen.

I haven’t convinced anyone to change their opinion, but I have convinced myself that a peaceful approach to heated arguments leads to a peaceful relationship, even if no one’s mind is changed. Truly, as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”

We need more peace in our politics if we are to achieve peace for our nation. We need more people willing to put aside high emotion and political identities if we are to build bridges of understanding. We need more people to come together in our homes and communities with the intent to talk, listen and hear, just as those six women did nearly three decades ago. This will happen only if we are all willing to change. The good news is that there are plenty of resources available to help us learn. Organizations like Braver Angels and Living Room Conversations can help us improve our skills. Events like the Better Together Film Festival can provide examples of success.

So the next time you argue for your side, remember that the people on the other side have their reasons, experiences and emotions, just like you. They aren’t demons or monsters any more than you are.

The sooner we can stop vilifying and start understanding, the sooner we can have healthy, productive disagreements instead of destructive arguments. Whether it’s about abortion, gun control or any other issue — political or personal — we will make a difference only when we start to converse civilly, peacefully and even lovingly with those with whom we disagree.

Peacemaker. Bridge builder. Friend.

Could you imagine if these were the labels that defined us — all of us?

It starts with you and me.

Sierra Jensen is a member of Mormon Women for Ethical Government and lives with her husband and two children in North Carolina.