EQ Education

Agree to disagree

Do you and your friend disagree on which season of Game of Thrones is the best, on who should get voted out of the Bigg Boss home? Do you have differing views on political, social or religious topics? Or worse yet, do you have arguments about which mobile operating system is better?

It is hard enough today to find friends with whom we can connect and whose company we enjoy; how do we make sure we don’t let differences get in the way of our friendships?

The most obvious solution would be to treat those topics you disagree on as taboo and never speak of them, but that is not always possible. You are likely to differ in your points of view on topics in the future. How do you navigate those conversations so that they don’t influence your relationship?

Acknowledge

Listen to your friend’s perspective, and don’t be too quick to dismiss it. You may already have made up your mind on your stance, but there is no harm in understanding the other person’s views. Be open to the possibility that there may be more than one way of looking at the topic, and your way need not be the only “right” way. Maybe some personal experiences, which may be different from your own, have shaped your friend’s outlook. Instead of taking the “I am right, you are wrong” approach, ask “Why do you think so?”, or “What makes you feel that way?”

If you disagree, don’t make personal attacks. Choose your words by thinking about how you would feel if someone was trying to poke holes in your argument, or in a belief that you have always held true. Explain why you feel differently on the topic and avoid raising your voice or lobbing personal attacks. This will help your friend become more receptive to what you have to say.

Think about where you are before entering into your argument. For instance, if the topic you are discussing is on a large public forum like a WhatsApp group, things could start off as a civil debate but could quickly spiral out of control, because everyone wants to say their piece. If your friend needs to be called out for saying something offensive, point out what you found offensive and why. If your friend apologises, that is well and good; but in the absence of an apology, do not start sharpening your verbal sword to prepare for a battle.

Always pick your battles wisely. Before you launch into a passionate defense of your position and whip out facts and figures to support your stance, consider whether the topic you are getting about is worth the effort. Perhaps it is okay to acknowledge your friend’s position and let this topic go, to avoid going down the rabbit hole of an unpleasant conversation.

If your disagreement is about something personal to you, talk it out. Sometimes, you and your friend may have fundamental differences in values and beliefs, and you might be hurt by his/her sentiments. In such cases, it is important to exercise patience, discuss it with your friend and help him/her understand why you feel hurt. If after repeated attempts, you don’t see your friend’s opinion changing, and the disagreement is causing a rift in your relationship, consider whether the differences can be set aside in favour of the friendship, or if they are too close to your heart to overlook. Remember, the opposite situation could also be true: perhaps you hold beliefs that are hurtful to your friend and need to be open to change.

It doesn’t take much effort for people to form an opinion on something; far more for them to be convinced to change it. Bear this in mind the next time you ‘agree to disagree’.

The writer is a psychologist and management consultant. krithvis@gmail.com

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2020 12:49:09 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/agree-to-disagree/article29360047.ece

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