A friend of mine posted this as his status on Facebook. I was about to write in one thought, when a second occurred to me. As I typed in a second, I thought of a third; at which point I realized I had a blog topic. I would like to invert the question: Is it possible to maintain a friendly disagreement?
I think it is in our nature to disagree. Two people watch the same movie, or listen to the same song, or view the same art... and walk away with different opinions. One was moved, the other not. One liked, one disliked. We are beings that interpret. As such, we will interpret things differently.
I believe some of these predilections are hard wired. We are born with certain leanings. Others are the result of our life's experience and circumstance. The net result is that two people can look at the same thing, but see two different items.
So back to the question. I think disagreement is not something we can expunge from the human condition. I think the challenge to humanity is to learn to disagree amicably.
The following are items I see, from my experience, that have to be overcome before one can have a friendly disagreement:
- Digital/Analog Thinking - I have written on this before, but in short, this is when one person sees only in two poles, and the other sees varying gradients between the two poles. For example, I often get into disagreeable discussions over the Bible being inerrant (from the mouth of God with no errors). I do not believe it is, but people who do tend to see it two ways: Either it is inerrant or it is completely useless. Since I do not see it as inerrant, they start to address me as though I believe the bible to be completely useless. Usually, no amount of explaining on my end can make them see my position any differently.
- Concrete Assumptions - This is where someone has an unbendable position, almost a faith, in a certain premise. For example, in an economics discussion, a person may believe a certain economic system to be the best, unquestioningly. Therefore when discussing problems within the economy, the individual will never question aspects of the system itself... the problems must always reside somewhere else, because the individual has predetermined the rightness of the system. This person has put a barrier around certain items and has made them unquestionable.
- Narrow Experience - In this case, a person simply relegates all truth to their personal experience. It is easy to believe that all people of another faith are corrupt or inept, if one doesn't have personal experience with someone of that faith. It easy to pass judgments on parents... then you become one... and all of your preconceived notions go out the window.
- Projecting Motive - This happens most often in online discussions. People project emotions and motives on to the other party. The one I see most often is that people project anger onto anyone who disagrees with them. If someone doesn't see things the way I do, they must be an unhappy soul.
- Knowledge Insecurity - This is similar to concrete assumptions. The individual has absolute belief in the rightness of their position... but has very little knowledge or experience to back it up. The cliche' arguments that worked so well in their personal circles suddenly don't translate as easily in the general public. Rather than be willing to be instructed into a wider knowledge, the person becomes defensive.
People are going to disagree. Can we do so in a manner of respect? I have many friends who I staunchly disagree with on many issues, yet we still remain friends and can have great discussions over our disagreements. I have had other friendships end, or we simply can't talk about certain issues (is that really a friendship?) because of disagreement.
The previous five items are, from my experience, at the root of unfriendly disagreements. Do you have others you would add to the list?