There is a strange phenomenon happening in civil society, the attempt to make everyone agree on everything , based on the idea that this is not only possible , but necessary. Consensus and shared understanding have been touted as the way to peace and equity and happiness. Disagreement is seen as a problem to solve . But is that reasonable or even desirable? Is that democratic ? Here are a few reasons that people disagree.
1. They have different information than you do .
What to do: Have a calm discussion and lay out all the information so you are both basing your beliefs on the same information. In this age of too much and constantly changing information, it’s easy for two people to be reading two different sources about the same topic. Or it could be related to something about the other person that plays a part in the overall topic. Such as vaccines. Maybe that person’s child had a severe vaccine reaction or their best friend’s child died of SIDS right after getting a vaccine. Life experiences can have a big impact on how we view information. Be willing to ask questions before pronouncing the other person an idiot. Maybe you are the one who is uninformed. After a good fact-finding mission, if you still disagree , you will have to accept that this disagreement is based on something other than facts, such as personal preference, emotions, trauma, or mental illness. Let it go.
2. They have different values.
What to do: determine if the subject you are disagreeing over is actually a values-based issue, such as whether people have the ‘right’ to abortion or the ‘right’ to have medical care provided by the government. Those are actually values-based issues. Obviously religious beliefs will play a big part in many disagreements. Those who highly value the approval of God will make decisions differently than those who do not believe in God. Not everyone agrees on things because they have different fundamental values. Discover if you have any values on the issue that are in conflict . See if there is any common ground that you can agree upon. Graciously accept that you can only give them information and let them make up their own mind . Respect their beliefs and choices as long as they do not conflict with your own personal rights. Give them the same respect you expect.
3. They have different goals, needs, or interests.
What to do: Recognize that we all form opinions and beliefs and make decisions from the perspective of what is best for us in that situation , under certain circumstances, with whatever problems and emotions that may be going that we may not tell others about . We all want to be logical, moral, and right , but sometimes other things get in the way. Someone may make choices based on their belief that to do otherwise could put them in danger or at risk of loss of income or may provide some advantage, even if they don’t really like doing something and it conflicts with their usual logical behaviors. This is one reason why women often stay in abusive relationships. Or someone may hold opinions that seem illogical because they don’t want to lose friends or a job. Accept and respect that reality is often different from perfection and expect the same from them. Sometimes people change their minds. Give it time. Remember when you made decisions based on less than perfect situations.
If you’re a person who highly values peace, wants everyone to be happy, or thinks everything is about you, you probably try hard to avoid conflict by either pressuring people to agree with you or by outwardly agreeing with anything other people say. This will actually bring less peace and happiness to your relationships. Others will either see you as easy to manipulate and you will be a target for narcissists and con artists or they will feel like they cannot be their honest selves around you.
It’s better to learn to deal with your own emotional discomfort associated with disagreements so you can build strong and loving relationships based on honesty and trust. Wouldn’t you rather have someone trust you with their authentic self rather than pretend to be the person you want them to be? Wouldn’t you rather not be the victim of predatory people? Try it next time you feel like going along to get along .
Simply say, “Well , I don’t see it that way , but I respect your beliefs. Would you like to share how you came to that conclusion, or should we just agree to disagree?”. You both might learn something, but either way, you’ll build trust between you if you do not feel threatened by their right to their own beliefs. On the other hand, if you are in the position of the one being pressured to agree against your beliefs, please do stand up for yourself and your right to your own thoughts and words. Some people mean really well but are simply unaware of what they are doing, and if you care about them, you can gently point out that it is okay if you don’t agree, that you still like them.
In summary, we all want peace and to be respected. The best way to achieve that is by good communication, respect, and patience.