This isn’t a post about politics, so if that’s what you’re looking for, feel free to leave. This is a post about being able to respectfully disagree with others, whether that’s about politics, religious ideologies, or even something as simple as where to go for dinner. I think we oftentimes forget that it is possible to have a completely rational conversation with our loved ones about something we don’t necessarily agree upon, and leave that conversation feeling as though your relationship with that person is not damaged in some way.
1.Realize that their truth may not be your truth.
Here’s a quick lesson that may or may not blow your mind. You see, we often think that there is one almighty truth. Let’s draw it out:
This red “T” represents the things we believe to be true. T stands for truth. This is the core of our values and beliefs. Many of us assume that our truth is just one single thing. It cannot be changed or influenced by others. But in reality, our truth actually looks something like this:
The basis of our beliefs and the things we believe to be the ultimate truth are actually influenced by many factors. Some are big and some are small. These tiny little truths may be our life experiences, upbringing, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, income, religion, you get where I’m going. Nobody’s big truth looks exactly like anyone else’s, because all of the little truths came together over the years of your own unique life.
But our truths do not develop and then just sit dormant for the rest of our lives. Our big truths are constantly being bombarded with little truths. These can come from a lot of places: our friends posting on Facebook, conversations with our grandmothers, the news, school, etc. When this happens, we can choose to accept those other truths as our own to add to our big truth, or we can choose to reject those truths. It is ultimately your decision, and nobody else’s.
The reason I explained this was not to show off my wonderful artistic talent, but to explain how our belief systems work in a very simple sense. We are influenced by all of our life experiences, not just a single truth. It is absolutely impossible to adhere to one political, religious, or social ideology and make it your one single truth because that is not how we work as humans.
It is important to recognize and understand that the person you are disagreeing with likely has a very different set of truths than you. This is because of the things they have experienced in their own lives and not anything personal against you.
2. Do not burn bridges.
“Feel free to unfriend me if you believe in _______.” “I’m deleting anyone that voted for _____.” This is not how you treat your friends. This bullshit reminds me of second grade when friendships would end over things like a kickball game at recess. Grow up. Your friends don’t have to be exactly like you. In fact, it’s probably best that you have friends that are different in order to challenge you.
3. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
This seems pretty self explanatory, but way too often I hear people call their friends and family awful things simply because they disagree on something. Treat others with respect if you expect it in return. Which you absolutely should.
4. Don’t say anything unless it is better than silence.
For anyone that knows me well, this one is a hard one for me. I spent 18 years with parents that tried to instill this in me and sometimes I still forget it. But if you’re just speaking to fill the silence, it’s not worth speaking at all. Share things that you think will positively add to the conversation.
5. Do not press someone to argue if they do not want to argue back.
If someone does not want to argue with you, do not press them to argue or explain themselves. Sometimes people just want to keep things at bay before it escalates into something worse.
6. Pick your battles.
Similar to my last point, but if you think that someone has their head so far up their ass that there’s no way they’re going to listen to you, give up the dream. It’s not worth your time to attempt to sway their opinion when they’re not even open to it. Which leads me to my next point…
7. Be open-minded.
If you want someone to hear your side of the story, be willing to listen to theirs. This doesn’t mean that you need to agree with them, but this does mean that you need to be respectful and attentive to what they’re trying to tell you, because they believe that it is important.
8. Wait until you’re calm.
Do not spew your first reaction at someone. It can be extremely hurtful and damage relationships in the long run. Wait until you are calm enough to talk to them rationally about the issue.
9. Realize that it’s possible that nobody is right.
Going back to the mini truths lesson, sometimes nobody is right. Sometimes your truths are so radical and so different that neither one of you is right, but neither one of you is wrong either. It’s best to work towards a compromise or mutual respect of disagreement.
In light of all the hatred and disagreement going on on social media these last few days, I hope these simple tips help when in a disagreement with an acquaintance or loved one. Keep in mind that your relationship is bigger than any disagreement, and that their truths and yours are not the same.