Have you ever disagreed with someone?
If the answer is no, then this post is not for you. If the answer is yes, then you’ll want to keep reading.
There are topics out there for all of us that trigger deep feelings. We picked a side and plan on sticking to that side believing that our previous understanding was right and therefore so are we. All of us do this and live our lives this way. It’s healthy and normal. People like to believe their logical, but that doesn’t mean they are. Besides, it’s generally not bad for us to go around rethinking things we already know. It wouldn’t be very helpful to my marriage to dedicate time to wondering if my wife still loves me. My time could be better spent thinking about how I can show her that I love her.
I’m rather impressed at how terribly unpersuasive our conversation is right now. Each side talks, but they seem to be talking in a way that only persuades those close to their beliefs. Of course, there will be a few anectdotal stories of those who significantly change their beliefs, but on the whole, when it’s done, people will still believe close to what they want to.
I believe we need to have a better way of having this discussion. All we have to do is ask people to explain their thinking for their beliefs and be prepared to explain ours. At some core we all agree. Where we disagree isn’t simply just a phrase about our different beliefs, its identifying the moment in someone’s logic tree where we disagree.
This sort of thing happens all the time amongst libertarians. I started following these guys years ago and they’re a pretty interesting group. In general the group believes that individual agency is paramount and all things should be legal as long as they are not harming someone else. Beyond that they don’t agree on much. As a group their take on economics is all over the map. They see abortion as an ongoing conversation about self determination and the rights of those who need external protection.
The discussion is (for the most part) healthy. I’m not advocating for libertarianism in this post, but that as a model they know how to discuss heated topics with civility. They’ll notice disagreements and take the time to listen to the other side as it explains how they came up with their position. They’ll also use that as a platform to explain where they disagree.
Agreeing to disagree is hard when you wrap emotion around a particular subject. Taking the time to understand each other’s emotions and how those emotions feel like reality is key. It requires a deeper conversation than the format of our news programs will allow, and I’m afraid we may have programmed ourselves to avoid making social media as effective in this arena as I’d like. It’s still worth the effort though.
We don’t have to agree in the end, but it’s worth it to find out where we disagree.
One place we often find disagreements is in our work environments. I’ve never perfectly agreed with anyone I’ve worked with or worked for, but when I take the time to understand I can appreciate (while still disagreeing) where the other person is coming from, and I can support them in their goals.
I onced worked with a manager named Frank. One day he remarked how frustrating it was that the people he was supervising kept asking why. “I don’t need them to know why, I just need it done.”
I replied, “Frank, who’s going to take your place as a supervisor one day?”
“Don’t you think it’s important to teach them why (provided there’s enough time) so they can learn from all of your hard work and effort the best way to do things?”
Frank realized that he was being asked to be a mentor and was missing it.
So, if you find yourself passionately heated on a particular subject, ask the other side why they’re similarly passionate as well. Take the time to have a mentor with a different point of view. When the time comes to share your logical tree please do so with civility and kindness. When you get asked why, you’re being asked to mentor someone. Be the sort of mentor they can respect and come back to later on.