Living in Disagreement

In today’s culture where politics and other dichotomous issues seem to divide, we will come across people with whom we do not share similar opinions. We may work with them, raise children amongst them, and even live with them. As tragedies and disasters swirl around us, the solutions we offer may not match the ideas of those around us. So how do we live in disagreement, peacefully? How can we respond when we feel hurt by comments from those with whom we share life?

First, we begin with our values. What kind of person do I want to be? Rather than focusing on another’s viewpoint or action, start by reminding yourself of what you hold in highest esteem. Brene Brown says it’s “how we do things around here.” No matter what point on a spectrum you tend to fall, you can espouse the values of love and compassion, acknowledging the dignity of each person with which you engage in dialogue.  

“Who do I want to be in this moment?” offers an implied action during times where we tend to feel powerless such as brewing arguments and moral dilemmas.  Remember the values you hold dear.  Choose behaviors and responses that are in line with those values.  Being the person you choose to be during this experience minimizes the chances that anger and hurt will turn you into someone you are not.

Then, find what you share in common. Remind yourself that most disagreements stem from the how, not necessarily the what. For instance, you might have a disagreement in your house over loading the dishwasher. Begin by remembering that everyone wants clean dishes. You may agree with the method of loading the dishes; you might have friction over the importance of speed vs. efficiency of filling the dishwasher.  At the end of the day, everyone want the dishes to be clean. It’s the how, not the what, that usually causes disagreement.

Next, recognize the potential for growth in each interaction. What does this person have to teach me? Perhaps you don’t come away in agreement with a particular point of action, but you might learn more about the above-mentioned values you wish to cultivate in all your future conversations.

Finally, set healthy boundaries around interactions with people. This practice often gets a bad reputation when people believe boundary setting only as cutting somebody out of your life. Instead, learning to detach with love from others’ hurtful behaviors is key to depersonalizing in a healthy way.  Owning our part in conflict is essential in focusing on what we have control over, whether this is how we treated someone else or how we responded to they’re treatment of us.

Part of being human is acknowledging the distinctness of each individual: the gifts, perceptions, ideas and values that they embody.  When we come from a place of scarcity and fear, seeing the value in all people can feel threatening.  Another’s value does not negate our own, nor does it take from our own contributions to the world.  There is more than enough to go around.  Remembering this is central to living peacefully.

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