Can't We Just Agree to Disagree?
by Dawn Billings, founder of RelationshipHelp.com
Now that is a relevant question. It appears that in our current 2022 society we have choked out much of the room to agree to disagree. It today's world the media bias is so strong that the narrative on either side can't tolerate even listening to different perspectives. The tone is, "If you disagree with me, you are an idiot, wrong and deserve to be silenced. This cancelling of differing opinions is NOT healthy communication, in fact it is no communication at all.
It’s essential to keep in mind that disagreements are inevitable. Whether it be in a political setting, a religious conversation, a scientific debate or in your living room with your partner, disagreements are inevitable.
What makes dissent so frequently cause distress is that, subliminally, each of us may feel emotionally threatened by it. It’s used to be that your partner’s differing position implied their disapproval of you. Now your partner's differing position determines your disapproval of them. Disagreements used to be experienced as mini-rejections. Which is why people argued about them repeatedly—and mindlessly. Now the infraction of disagreement or holding a differing opinion is actually dangerous to your health, your career, your reputation and your livelihood.
Disagreements used to become heated, as people moved into their most extreme personality positions and opinions. You ran into a communication wall where neither of you may have felt you had the “desire” or “ability” to validate the other’s viewpoint. Now the reactions to disagreements are so severe that people feel entitled to physically assault people who disagree with them, or burn down property, and destroy things that are owned by someone you disagree with. We have been brainwashed to believe that there’s way too much at stake (climate change, end of the world, end of democracy, end of human life caused by viruses, you get the idea) to do consider compromise of any kind. You must choose, Are you in? Or are you out?
When we move into an extreme version of our personality tendencies, we invite the person, organization, political party we are interacting with to move into their extreme personality tendencies as well. When you reach this irrational, highly charged point of no return, each becomes more intimately connected to their belief system, dogma and point of view than they feel to each other, or to other human beings. You become identified with your position or story version (and the extreme personality tendencies that you might believe protect the validity of that position). Moreover, if your now-antagonist refuses to confirm the subjective legitimacy of your viewpoint, you’re probably, deep down, going to experience a more general sense of alienation from—or even abandonment by—that person. It doesn't take long until we can allow ourselves to stop seeing large populations of people as something other than human beings. Instead we see them as an opposition that needs to be silenced or destroyed.
We have lost center. Center has become a no man's land that we have planted land mines to blow anyone who might want to enter, away. We must reclaim society's center. We must reclaim our relationship's center. And in order to accomplish this overwhelming fete, we must reclaim our personal centers where all love, respect, compassion, understanding, hope, unity and compromise live.
If each one of us can consciously choose to move back to our centered personality strengths by voicing an empathic understanding of the other’s position, not a stamp of approval or validation for another's position, but simply an empathetic understanding, the vicious cycle of conflict, invalidation, and rejection can be taken from physically killing other humans, burning buildings and property, disrespecting and demeaning one another to a place where we can calmly, respectfully explain our positions and opinions in hopes that we can begin to understand how to work together to solve the problems at hand.
By joining one another in the center of our core personality strengths and talents—we can reclaim and disarm the territory that used to be called the center of conversation, where all schools of thought are listened to with respect and after all has been said, we are much better equipped to chose what must be done. The tree of life cannot be ripped apart because one group believes that the roots are the most important part of the tree and another group believes that the leaves and fruit are the most important part of the tree. It is the center that connects them them both, the trunk of the tree. The trunk is where communication, food and resources flow freely to both ends. To fight until we kill the center, creates nothing for our future but dead trees.
Dawn is the author of the Primary Colors Relationship Personality Tests and Insight Tools, and is the founder of RealtionshipHelp.com Dawn is the creator of the comprehensive ONLINE relationship programs called Relationship Help At Home, and is the Executive Director of the Relationship Help Resort in Arizona where she hosts private couple's retreats and marriage intensives to help people restore the love and connection in their marriages.