If you have learned how to disagree without being disagreeable, then you have discovered the secret of getting along – whether it be business, family relations, or life itself.
~ Bernard Meltzer
Excerpted from my book, Conscious Footsteps: Finding Spirit in Everyday Matters
I learned the importance of “agreeing to disagree” from my family, but not in the way you might think. My family had a particular template for behavior and beliefs that I was expected to swallow as a child, even though I have always been naturally self-determined and freedom-loving.
As long as I lived under their roof, I wisely did not rock the boat, at least outwardly. After leaving home, I explored many philosophies and gained diverse life experiences as I matured.
The difference between parental values and my newly gained perspectives erupted into conflict with my folks at times. I will not trouble you with the details, but let us just say we did not always exchange loving words.
As a result of my many group activities—for learning, serving, and fun—I discovered how very diverse people’s thinking can be. I found myself in the dilemma of really liking someone but not agreeing with him on some issue.
How could this be? I loved and respected someone—he or she was my friend—and yet, on some point, we did not see eye-to-eye. The dissonance was so great that it broke through the old parental mores (you know, the ones that say “you must agree with me because I know what’s right”).
When the barrier that claimed there is a “right” and “wrong” way to do things fell, I discovered a respectful, peer-to-peer approach that worked much better: “agreeing to disagree.” By embracing the idea that two people don’t always have to agree, you express respect for the other person and yourself.
Ultimately, I learned that I don’t need to confirm I am “right” by getting the other person’s agreement. There are situations where we are both right—right for ourselves and our own life but not right for the other.
Perhaps you have some area of your life where you have been expecting someone to see things your way. What if you accepted that both of you are right, or if you simply “agreed to disagree”? Wouldn’t it make life more harmonious?
My relationship with my family has greatly improved since I got past expecting them to see my point of view. There are still a few touchy topics we don’t discuss, but that leaves more time for sharing what really matters: the love among us.