Agreeing to Disagree

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Agreeing to Disagree

Black Belt Leadership
Published by John Terry - The Black Belt Leader in Leadership · 12 November 2020
Tags: beablackbeltleader
Agreeing to Disagree
By: John Terry - The Black Belt Leader

My sister, Tonya, and I didn't always agree. Like any siblings, we had our own likes and dislikes, as well as our own unique preferences, styles, and opinions. We were both headstrong and at times we "butted heads". It was in those moments of disagreement that my Mom would speak a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) reminder to us both:

"It is OK to agree to disagree. It is NOT OK for you to be disagreeable with each other. You can disagree without being disagreeable."
Mom made it clear that we were to value each other as individuals, to respect each other's opinions (even if we didn't agree with them). She would also remind us that there were always more things we agreed on than disagreed on, and to focus our attention on the things we had in common and not to "major on the minors".

She also reminded us that people who refuse to listen to an opposing viewpoint are close-minded people who lack the ability to defend what they think they believe. Rather than being open to understanding another person's perspective, close-minded people cling to a belief system often based on incorrect or incomplete information.

Instead of learning for themselves, they blindly adopt the belief system of another without validating the truth of what they believe, and why. This is group-think, and it can be dangerous.

This is how open, free-thinking society crumbles, decays, and dies.

Words of wisdom the world needs to hear right now.

Civility is the hallmark of any productive society. Recognizing the individual value and worth of each and every person is essential to a society's well-being and its ability to have cohesiveness. If there is nothing to hold us together as a society, there will be no society.

In ancient Greece, philosophers would debate various subjects. Individuals would gather to hear arguments in support or opposition to a particular topic or subject matter. The merits of each person's position on the subject matter would be considered by the group, with all sides coming with an open mind to hear the perspective of another, to gain insight into why a person believed or acted in a certain way.

The purpose of debate was to share opposing ideologies to allow the audience to gain a broader perspective, and perhaps a greater understanding, of the world around them and the life experience that had brought an individual to believe or act in a certain way. It was a healthy exchange of ideas, and an attempt to persuade others to one's way of thinking.

Those who gathered to hear came with their own opinions, but also an open mind. Those who came to hear the orators came with a willingness to silence their own "inner voice" of bias or opinion to actively listen and consider the view of another and to reflect on what they hear. To put their own prejudices and beliefs aside to hear a different perspective.

It's an opportunity to examine one's own values, beliefs, and behaviors in light of what they have heard from someone who views the world differently than they do. It is a chance to challenge and debate ideas without personally attacking the people who believe them.

This is how a free and open society learns, grows, and matures. It is how we learn to see things from the perspective of another, to "walk a mile in another's shoes" and understand their life experience and how it has shaped their values, beliefs, and behaviors. It is how we begin to understand the worldview of another, to see the world through their eyes.

The art of civil debate has been lost in society today. In a world of hyper-partisanship today, everything has become polarizing in the past few years. The advent of social media has made it far too convenient for people to speak vile, hateful, and nasty things about people whose positions or policies we may disagree with.

Today, we don't debate ideas. We've allowed our own personal biases and opinions to become unquestionable, unable to be challenged or opposed. Rather than debate ideas in an effort to gain a deeper understanding of another person's perspective or life experience, we personally attack (and cancel) people whose ideology we don't agree with.

Rather than listening to a philosophy, idea, value, or a belief we may not embrace as our own, we carelessly throw around terms like homophobic, xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, and bigoted to personally attack people whose worldview differs from our own.

Today, if people don't agree with YOUR view of the world, they are wrong.

This is how society crumbles, decays, and dies.

We tear history down rather than learn the lessons history has taught us as a nation. We attempt to rewrite history to match a narrative rather than allowing history to speak for itself and giving each person the opportunity to draw their own conclusions from the past.

One of the most important lessons from history is that when we fail to learn the lessons of the past, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes again and again in the future. History is a great teacher if we will be willing, and open, to learn its lessons.

This is how open, free-thinking society crumbles, decays, and dies.

There is a leadership void in America. We desperately need men and women of value, who value people, who will stand up and say, "It's OK to agree to disagree. It is not OK to be disagreeable. People are valuable, and need to be valued." We need to remember there is more that unites us than divides us.

We need leaders who will bring people together, call out those who want to "cancel" those they disagree with, and moderate a meaningful dialogue that bridges our divides and continually remind us that people are valuable, and they need to be valued. We won't always agree, and that's OK. We need to stop majoring on minors and focus on uniting where we can, so together we can tackle the real and pressing problems in society today.

We need to stop yelling and cursing at each other and realize that not everyone has the same life experience you do. Their perspective, their worldview, may be different and that's OK.

People are valuable...and need to be valued. If we stop yelling at each other long enough to hear what we each have to say, we can learn something from each other. In doing so, our perspective may change, as may the other person's. Even if we still disagree after we've debated ideas, we have a better understanding of why we believe the way we do.

It's OK to agree to disagree. It is not OK to be disagreeable. People are valuable, and need to be valued.

This how a free, open society grows, prospers, and gets better.

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