Agreeing to Disagree

agree to disagree

Agreeing to Disagree

By Charity Hagains MA LPC-S

A difference of opinion can be devastating to a relationship, or perhaps, it can be a strengthening cement that bonds us together.  As social media has exploded with differing viewpoints these last few weeks, you may have been an eye witness to some of the more damaging and hurtful ways in which people disagree.  Not only is this an online struggle but also a face-to-face dilemma.  Perhaps your own personal life is a minefield of arguments – mother and daughter, husband and wife, siblings or neighbors, etc.  In an age where we are encouraged not only to have our own beliefs, but also to express those beliefs, we can find ourselves amidst raging emotions as we strive to “communicate.”

Thankfully however, war doesn’t have to ensue with every disagreement.  There are many ways in which we can argue or disagree effectively and respectfully.  Through this healthy communication style, our relationships can grow stronger and more valuable than they ever were before.  Here are some tips for how you can argue and “agree to disagree” in a beneficial way.

Recognize Your Goal

When we argue we often let our emotions get the better of us.  Perhaps we begin to feel attacked or rejected when someone does not agree with our point of view.  Maybe we feel disrespected in the way we are being spoken to or that the other person does not value our opinion.  In any case, you must first think about what your goal is for this conversation.  Is it to express your opinion?  Is it to get the other person to agree with you?  Is it to feel that the other person respects you?  What are you seeking and why?  When you have the answer to this, you can begin to choose topics in the conversation that are more focused on that underlying goal, which are not always even related to the topic at hand.

Speak with Self-Respect

If we expect someone to treat us with respect in a conversation, we must first treat ourselves with respect.  What does this mean?  Well, no name calling for one thing.  This is not a respectful way to speak to another person.  On that we can all agree, but it is also a way of disrespecting yourself.  Stooping to a level beneath you to make your point heard will only decrease the respect you have in yourself once the argument is over.  Even when others are not maintaining that level of respect, you can.

Validation is NOT Agreement

People often mistake validating a point with agreement of that point.  Likely all points are valid.  If another person is seeing, feeling or expressing something; for them the point is valid.  Validating that for them is not a weakness, but a strength in your own confidence.  Most of the time, we simply want to be heard in an argument.  We want to know that the other person is listening to us and understanding what we are saying, even if they don’t agree with it.  Offering this to another person shows compassion for them as a human being, something we are all craving.  It doesn’t mean that you are in agreement with their views or beliefs on a subject, but that you value them as a person and hear what they are saying.

Let go of Needing 

The emotional trigger that drives us from a lively debate towards a raging fight is the feeling that we need agreement.  We get a deep seated urge for someone to tell us we are “right” and they are “wrong.”  Understandably, we all enjoy the satisfaction of winning or of hearing confirmation that we are indeed correct.  What often gets us into painful situations is our desire for someone else to do that for us, rather than looking inward and providing the confirmation for ourselves.  Confidence in our beliefs or ideas first comes from within.  While it is nice to hear, “That’s absolutely correct,” from another person their is still satisfaction in building your confidence inwardly.  Doing so takes some of the need out of an argument and lets emotions remain manageable throughout the discussion.

When disagreements happen, take a moment to calm down and focus on yourself rather than the other person.  Keep calm, and know that you are in control of yourself and your beliefs.  You are the only one who can change your opinion, and no argument changes that fact.  Don’t let a difference of opinion damage a valuable relationship out of need for agreement.  Disagreements can strengthen relationships if you understand your goal, speak with self-respect, offer the compassion of validation, and remain confident in your beliefs without needing agreement.

If your relationship has been damaged by repeated arguments and repairing it has become unmanageable, the professionals at Noyau are here to help.  Our experts can help you regain the caring and meaningful relationship that you crave and deserve.