How to disagree is a forgotten art. Public discourse shows us that it pays off to be offensive and to lure people into verbal traps. The reward for this is attention and power. But where lies the moral justice in this? Are the people who are best at arguing than those who will come out on top? A disagreement that is explored from a basis of good faith and mutual respect can have a positive impact on the advancement and betterment of society. Holding opposite views from each other will help us in our quest for the truth. This way we can all win and live our best lives. There are, however, some requirements to do so in the most virtuous way.

We will examine what disagreements are and how and when we encounter them. There will be some examples that we will check our analysis on. We will look at how we can disagree, the types, and ways. Then we will also explore the benefits of disagreeing and how they can help us get ahead as a society and as an individual. There will also be a closer look at where the pain lies and why some are so emotional and stubborn to make them over react. How to disagree is a forgotten art, as I have mentioned in the subtitle. Why this is so, is the point with which we will start.

A Forgotten art

Disagreeing is an art, a subtle dance between different opinions, views, and feelings. A toe might be stepped on, but if the partners are kind and compassionate, this will not destroy the performance. It can even enhance the relationship, but if not managed correctly, then it will break it all apart. It is important to check your body language, your tone of voice, the words you choose, and the arguments you use. The parties involved must respect each other’s way of communicating. Some are more outgoing and quicker on their feet, while others need a bit more time. Both need to be recognized and acknowledged. Then there is the part each individual plays, that of the ego and identity.

The ego

The ego is a big influence on how we react in certain circumstances. And when we are in a disagreement with someone, this sensitive element we all have inside will act up. The more secure we are in ourselves, the better we are at accepting that we can be wrong. And when we are right, the need to humiliate the other is gone. The element of having to win is reduced. It no longer has an impact, because there is no need for it.

Yet, if we are insecure, then we will use whatever means we have available to overwhelm and to let the other person know what happened. We don’t do this to belittle them, we do s to make ourselves feel better. When you find yourself in a debate and a disagreement arises, leave your ego at the door. Go in with good faith and approach the conversation with an open mind.

A disagreeing identity

When we go a bit deeper than the ego, we find the identity. The ingrained beliefs of an individual on who they are. These ideas might be programmed by our upbringing or self-established through our experiences. But they are rooted in our essence and are tough nuts to crack. How we identify is an important question to look into. It can be something we wouldn’t like to see ourselves as.

That’s why we have to ask ourselves these questions. Do we connect our personality to certain beliefs, such as politics, religion, cultural heritage, sports, and many more? It can be a part of it, but we need to find the individual that we are. Although it feels safer to be part of a group, we are still a single entity within the whole. And we are allowed to be that way. The stronger and more certain we are about ourselves, the easier it is to be a separate member within the larger whole.

Identity by externals

If these beliefs on identity are determined and steered by outside forces, then it can happen that we don’t fully subscribe to them. The doubt that then shows itself plays a part in how we disagree with others. There is the need to be fierce, to be louder, and to try to trick them. And it is far more difficult to break certain identity patterns, but in some cases that is what is required. What we need to do then, is to allow time to reflect. To look at the whole picture and take it slow. Change happens all the time, but the bigger and more sudden it is, the more difficult it is to accept. Thus, take it slow. But examine your identity and see how you feel about this. Is this who you are deep inside?

How do we disagree

There are many different ways we can disagree. One of the most common ones is speech. But we can also do this with our body language or silence. Nowadays, it happens a lot online. Where we can feel more protected behind the security of a screen and its anonymity. This is where we see some of the most horrible expressions and ways of fighting out an argument. Many times people go and look for others to hurt and argue with. There isn’t even a position they take that is theirs, it’s a sport to afflict pain on them.

And in other ways it is entertainment. We see it all over on television and social media platforms. The amount of clicks the videos get where someone is being abused is staggering. And we all watch, that’s what we do and that’s what the algorithms know. We are being played by our own insecurities and we have a false sense that this makes us feel happier. At least it will help us forget our own misery for a second.

When do we disagree

The news capturing diagreements to entertain us.
Photo by Matt C on Unsplash

Disagreements happen in many situations. Some are staged, as we can see in the last part of the previous paragraph. The entertainment business feeds on it and they will make it so that people are being stressed and brought to the point of disagreement. But if we look at more realistic situations that we can find ourselves in, then we don’t have to look far. We can disagree with everyone around us. The level of the relationship will determine how fierce the conversation can become. If we are in a solid relationship, then we can take a lot. And as long as we come to a true and sincere resolution, then it can strengthen the relationship. But if we leave things untouched, they can simmer into something uncontrollable.

What are the benefits of disagreeing?

There must be benefits behind something as common as disagreeing. We can find them in what happens after we speak about the topic we disagree on. If we all enter into the debate with good faith and a curiosity for the truth, then we can use these moments to find out what is real. This is the perfect moment to test our opinions and our beliefs. Which is something we should welcome. The truth should prevail above all else. And if we find what is right and what action benefits the common good the most, then we will see it can uplift the entire society.

“What injures the hive injures the bee.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.54

Where do we start with our debate? Let’s begin with exploring where our common ground lies. What do we agree on and see if we can work from there? This will allow the conversation to start from a positive angle and we have something to fall back on in case it falls apart along the way. We must also be able to learn to disagree sometimes and still be able to respect and be civil towards each other. It is possible not to see eye to eye on one topic, but who knows we can find each other shoulder to shoulder at a sporting match.

Are relationships possible

This doesn’t mean that we can never be in a certain relationship with each other. The most important part, of any conversation, is that we learn to listen to each other. This is the only way we can find out what the other person wants, or at least as close as possible. For we will never be able to climb into their mind completely. But we can try our best.

“Practice really hearing what people say. Do your best to get inside their minds.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 6.53
How to Disagree: A Forgotten Art. "The reason why we have two ears and only one mouth is that we may listen the more and talk the ess." Zeno Of Citium
Photo by Sacre Bleu on Unsplash

And also keep in mind the advice we were given by Zeno.

“The reason why we have two ears and only one mouth is that we may listen the more and talk the less.”

Zeno of citium, Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Book 7.23

Thus, in your next disagreement with someone, keep these things in mind. Leave your ego and emotions at the door. They will not help you with finding the truth. Make sure you know what your identity means to you and what your true nature is. It is then important to keep an open mind and not be afraid to have your beliefs challenged. If they are right, then you will find out. And if they are wrong, then you’ll be able to learn the truth. But be kind to yourself and give yourself the time you need to process all of this.

Disagree in good faith

Approach these conversations in good faith and make sure you learn how other people communicate. Make sure you are on the same level. You can do this by becoming the observer. This will help you to remove yourself emotionally from the conversation. You will now focus more on listening and making sure you stay curious. Ask questions out of good faith, and don’t try to catch the other person in a mistake. This debate is an exploration you are on together and you will all benefit from the right outcome. Work from a place of common ground and try to uplift society. It is our responsibility to relearn this forgotten art of how to disagree.

How to Disagree: A Forgotten Art
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