How to Disagree

When you vehemently disagree with somebody about a specific issue, try taking a step back and examining the broader context of the argument. Whatever issue you're arguing over must arise from some deeper interest in that topic that you both share. Only two nerds with a shared appreciation for comic book lore, canon, and internal logic could have an intense debate over whether Batman or Superman would win in a fight. There's always a common interest from which arguments arise. It isn't the absolute stranger with whom we have no common understandings that frustrates us most but the perversions of ourselves that arouse the greatest emotions.

The thought of another perspective originating from similar foundations as our own veering off into such foreign territory causes fear and anxiety within us; fear that whatever we've told ourselves to justify our own outlooks on life could be challenged and disproven, that maybe our internal logic and beliefs took a wrong turn at some point. This fear commonly causes us to try and annihilate the other perspective. If we can disprove or destroy the other branch of thinking, we will have nothing to fear. This tactic does work, but consider what happens if you are actually wrong about something. You are actively closing all possibility of learning and growth that could end up actually improving your life in many ways. Approaching disagreements with this attitude all but guarantees that your life stagnates.

Which is why it can be so effective to step back from the issue to find common ground. When we acknowledge that our most notable disagreements all stem from some shared understanding, we can try to start the conversation over at that higher level point of agreement, only this time also acknowledging the shared anxiety we both have of trying to find sure footing over existential crisis, and agreeing to cooperate in search of that sure footing. Rather than annihilating the other lines of thought, we can look at our debates as opportunities to collaboratively seek the answers to our shared uncertainties. Done properly, a debate can actually bring people closer, even if they can't find a way to arrive at the same destination, because it can still give us a momentary glance at ourselves in others, and grant us the wisdom to recognize and bond over the shared struggle to find meaning in life.

So, do you agree or disagree? 

Mike LinComment