“It’s okay to disagree with each other, what’s not okay is to hate each other because we disagree.” – Abhijit Naskar
A few years ago, I was watching an interview with a recently retired speaker of the house of commons, John Bercow. When asked about the state of politics, and indeed the world, he lamented that we, as a nation, seemed to have lost the ability to disagree agreeably.
Debate, argument, and opposition are essential to progress. Ideas must be challenged, inspected, and pulled apart in order to find the best solutions that benefit the most people possible. In order to do this well, we must be able to debate without hatred or argue with somebody without falling out with them. we are not all the same, and even people we are close to will have some differing opinions. Not taking such differences of opinion personally and listening to them with empathy and openness is one of the keys to unity and progress.
So… some thoughts on how to disagree agreeably.
The cornerstone of all successful communication is to listen. Not just to hear what the other side have to say, but to consciously listen, and process what they have said in a meaningful way. What is especially important in a confrontation or debate is then to address the concerns of the other side in your next. By doing this you signal that you have taken in their thoughts and ideas and are respecting their input by offering a retort.
2. Let The Other Side Finish
An important part of listening is to listen to the opposition in full. Do not cut in or halt their argument. To do these disrespects them, which implies you do not think of them and their position as equally important as you and yours. This can derail a debate and, perhaps more notably, sour it into something that is jarring beyond the relevant disagreement.
3. Do Not Get Personal
When in the heat of the moment, the passion of the debate, one can get carried away. Especially if you feel that your side of the debate is not holding as much weight as you’d like, it can be tempting to slip into a personal attack. Do not do this, under any circumstances. First of all, it is not kind. Always try to be nice, but never fail to be kind. Second, this muddies the clarity of what you are debating. Stick to the subject in question.
Really try and see things from the perspective of your duelling partner. Even if you disagree with them entirely, you must be mindful of the fact that they believe in their argument for what is probably a very good reason. Being able to empathise with them, and communicate that you understand where they are coming from will help not only endear you to them but will aid you in being able to relate your point of view to their personal situation.
5. Back Up Your Arguments
If you have an argument, show evidence for it. It’s easy to have an opinion. Everybody has an opinion. But opinions are flimsy. If you make your arguments robust with real evidence, then your argument will be stronger, clearer, and easier to debate effectively.
6. Try to Be Open to Change
If you go into a disagreement hell-bent on not changing your mind, you will not listen properly, nor take the time to actually consider how the ideas coming from the other side of the debate make you feel. Most arguments at work require a solution to move forwards, so you must be open to working with the other side, weighing up all arguments, and the possibility of compromise. Be assured in your own point of view, but do not close yourself off from learning or shifting in your own point of view.
By Chris Thomson
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