Agreeing Disagreeably?

[ 18 ] Comments

by MSKeller

I read today:

“How does it make you feel when you have a strong disagreement or argument with someone? Does it ever make anything better?” – Karol Truman.

Sobering thought. No, I always feel more discontent and unhappy, even if I am in the right and “win”.

In response to this question on Facebook I received a response that really struck me.  The writer was talking about a particular discussion that went south, hurt feelings, and friendships were severed. They said,

“Now when I’m online, I feel I can’t post my thoughts in fear I will be ridiculed and harsh debates will begin. I will just talk about fashion, cats, and the love for family; can’t go wrong there, right?”

Is this what we want to accomplish, to silence the more tender voices and turn our discussions banal? How can I share opinion and ideas that are different than another, without contention?  Is it even possible?

About MSKeller

Marsha Steed Keller (Th'Muse) "When I get a little money, I buy books, if there is any left, I buy food and clothes." --Desiderius Erasmus. This defines a part of Marsha's psychology and intent fairly well. When she was a child she says that people asked what super-power she would desire. She replied, "To know what is true, always." It hasn't changed much since then. Marsha cares more about intent than result; more about understanding than agreement and more about good questions than finding all the answers. She defines her best blessings as people (Family and Friends), ideas and beauty. She is highly visual, teaches voice and piano and enjoys her Life/Relationship coaching immensely. She has a BA in Psychology and an AA in Ballroom Dance. Life is an adventure to be lived in the moment and shared with the world. She considers being asked to write with this amazing group a high honor.

18 Responses to Agreeing Disagreeably?

  1. Jae says:

    What I notice in discussions where the two parties differ is the strong need one or both carry to convince the other how right their side is. Emotionally charged by the great need for validation or unity that is mistakenly believed will be the end result when concurrence is reached. Complicate that with the position many take that they are not wrong in their position. Add in a little volume, some strong words and a portion of pride and “agreeing to disagree” can become ugly. Is it that we don’t respect someone who disagrees with us. Is is that our own personal position is i changeable due to pride or some other quality? And what is “agreeing to disagree” anyway? Can we not respect one another and ourselves enough to not push our own point, actually be teachable and able to learn something from another’s point of view. Or to just respect ourselves enough that we are ok with someone not seeing our side? Do we have to be right? Is there only one way to look at an issue? For me, there is more behind this issue.

    • MSKeller says:

      I agree Jae, there are many things involved, and perhaps some are able to do it at this point in their development, and others are not?

      Pride is a huge factor. I know in past relationships the need to be ‘right’ was intrinsically connected to self-worth and self-vision. Being wrong was far too painful for it would crush the self-image the person was cradling.

      Teachableness is another. I know that I thrive in discussion, for even in heated and emotional topics I can learn something, if only more about what another person sees things as. I expect that isn’t a general outlook.

      Respect can come into play. Online we don’t really understand what the other person’s world is like in most parts. We don’t usually respect people we don’t know or understand. It is easier to respect people we have some background with and care about outside of the topic.

      I think that ‘agreeing to disagree’ is more about understanding another person’s point, rather than being required to agree with it. “So you are saying. . . . . . . I see.” That doesn’t require me to agree with them, only to understand and hear their point. For me, that is often enough. I don’t care if they agree, I just care that I’m not being misinterpreted or misunderstood.

  2. Sarah says:

    I think it’s virtually impossible on-line. I have been an avid user of internet chat mediums since for about 16 years now, and the vast majority of the time, disagreements turn ugly very quickly. There are few circumstances where people can discuss a hot topic and leave that discussion feeling happy or content.

    However, when I am chatting with friends or acquaintances face to face, there seems to be a greater desire for peaceful interactions.

    Maybe this is somehow related to D&C 45:26, with men’s hearts failing them.

    • MSKeller says:

      I have to disagree respectfully. :: winks :: Really though, I’ve found since I’ve been online for over 20 years, that in some instances, with some people, it is very difficult and best to just step away, but generally and honestly in MOST cases, I’ve found it very possible to think very differently and still be friends and have a good discussion.

      I’m not sure what the differences are in your experiences and mine, perhaps the topic, or the following. . .but I think in my initial question or thoughts, I’m more focused on what I can do, and not what others choose. So if I at least make certain that I respond respectfully and refuse to engage in a negative fashion, like the story goes about the hundreds of starfish. . . that was tossed back into the water. . . it matters to that one.

      I do think that you are right, ‘men’s hearts failing them’ – can have something to do with the inability for folks to be respectful and kind to each other.

  3. Susanne Nielsen says:

    Sadly, I think Sarah is right. My daughter has strong opinions, as does her cousin (on the opposite end of the spectrum), which lead to my daughter ‘unfriending’ her cousin! Family (and even friend) bonds are tenuous at best in IRL anymore, and this complicates it to a higher degree.

    I think it is much the same as the concept I use for a happy marriage . . . I make a conscious decision to concentrate on the things I love and ignore the things I don’t.

    At least it’s how I manage to still get along with and love my husband after 37 challenging years. 😉

    • MSKeller says:

      That was what in part prompted the question. A friend who had to sever a friendship because of a conversation online. Are we perhaps too quick to make permanent decisions on one conversation, or are there other factors?

      I also have a problem with designating “In Real Life” as something apart from our online experiences. In my life, online or off, they are very connected and integrated. I met my husband online in fact. But I expect that is another conversation all together.

      I love that, “concentrate on the things that I love and ignore the things that I don’t.” – Perhaps if we did that more in our conversations a gradual shift could occur as well.

  4. Bonnie says:

    Our stake president just talked about this in our recent Saturday evening session of conference. He talked about how the light we’re discussing when we say “let your light so shine” is NOT an intangible thing, and that both the negative and the positive energy we exude when we are controlled by either positive or negative emotion/spirit has a weight that can be felt and that lingers.

    Frederick Babbel in To Him that Believeth (one of my all-time favorite books) talks about sensitive instruments used in studies to evaluate the physical effect of emotion and thought. Fascinating stuff – one day I’ll write a post about it and share excerpts. There is also this interesting little video. I don’t know anything about Dr. Masaru Emoto, but I’m a believer in the principle. Spirit is matter of a finer sort, exerts forces we can’t comprehend, and is worth altering for the positive.

    • MSKeller says:

      That sounds fascinating Bonnie. I have followed Dr Emoto, and have found in my world that everything has energy and influence, especially words.

      I completely agree that energy has a tangibility. So when a conversation begins to turn negative, a positive energy infused into it can change the flow, I’ve watched it happen. Isn’t that our goal here?

  5. templegoer says:

    I’m interested in ideas of compassion and acceptance although constantly fall short of the mark, but it’s a nice aspiration.

    I’ve had my fingers burnt a few times online, but at the same time this is not my life and I don’t know these people. I don’t know where their responses are coming from, and actually it’s not my responsibility to put them right. It’s just a conversation, not a relationship. I can choose not to give it that power in my life. And I could be wrong.

    More harrowing was an experience where my visiting teacher had an aggressive meltdown in my home. When we tried to converse about it later, she maintained her right to have a meltdown in my home. What’s to do but accept that’s where this person is at this time. But clearly I’ve not managed to let it go.

    I think having kids teaches you that someone can be very disagreeable in holding what appears an untenable position, and that it’s part of their process, rather than a definition of who they are. We`are all in a process of creation all the time. There really is hope for the worst of trolls.

    Forgiveness applies online too.

    • MSKeller says:

      I like that, “It is part of their process.” I think too often we want people to be ‘finished’ when in reality they are still working on ‘becoming perfected’ just as we are. Perhaps just a little more generosity of spirit would go a long way yes?

      I am somewhat saddened by the ‘it’s not my life’ attitude though. I think that many people have that opinion and that could be a good deal of the easy rancor online especially. As you said, we do need a certain amount of distancing, but every person is a brother and sister, and I find that the more we depersonalize them into just a conversation instead of individuals with feelings and their own pains and positive attributes to share, the more we distance ourselves from all humanity, be it the lady sitting next to us on the bus or in Relief society or the man in the temple or the stranger who doesn’t hold the door for us.

      I love your last line, indeed. Forgiveness does apply online, perhaps even moreso since we know so much less about most of the individuals we associate with.

  6. Ray says:

    What really is frustrating for me is when two people are arguing while saying the same thing – just in different words. It happens quite frequently online.

    I have a rule of thumb I try to follow, even though I don’t succeed all the time (as evidenced yesterday in a thread at another site):

    If I comment about something without reading my comment slowly before I submit it, and without putting myself in the place of the person to whom I am addressing it and seeing how I would feel if someone else was saying it to me, I almost always regret it once I’ve submitted the comment.

    • Ray says:

      and I avoid Facebook except to check on status updates and occasionally “like” something.

      I haven’t commented on anything there in quite a while – and I also avoid comment threads attached to just about any newspaper article that involved politics or religion in any way.

      • templegoer says:

        Ray you are the man in this matter. I try to take your view of online interactions and have taught it in my home- I can’t tell you how leavening it has been. Clearly there is much for me to do and develop in this area, and this skill set has enabled me to engage in ideas online that might otherwise be alien to me, and therefore increase my understanding.
        I suspect that facebook, whilst being a great way to stay in contact with friends and family, may be warping the whole fabric of human relations. It enables each of us to control a fantasy of what our lives are, and eradicate all that does not fit with that fantasy. I think that has enabled us to maintain an omnipotent fantasy that kills off our ability to develop beyond early childhood in worst case scenarios-those who have little life elsewhere. I’m aware in my ward of young mothers who are clearly very preoccupied by the drama of their own emotional lives to the extent that it must make it difficult for their children to register on their emotional landscape-we can so easily become the centre of our own soap operas online.
        Every generation has it’s media distractions I guess. I think overcentralising our selves is a great danger to our spiritual development. The drama of the self has become so compelling, and facebook is a great enabler of it.

      • MSKeller says:

        I have found that largely, interractions depend on who you choose to surround yourself with. Just as I taught my children that they will become the average of the 10 people they spend the most time with, on facebook (or blogs or anywhere else we spend time) WE become in large part who we allow our most generous percentage of time. (This even is evidenced in the media, what we choose to read and watch as well).

        I am mostly only uplifted and enriched by my over 800 ‘friends’. I find that the people that appear on my pages are almost always respectful, warm, forgiving and generous when even a difficult discussion ensues on politics or religion. I’m not sure why my experience is so vastly different from what I hear-tell of many others, but I am grateful.

        I do know, that words are very powerful. I know that people are ‘real’ on or offline. I know that opinions, though strong, can still be often channeled, and I also know that some people don’t need to remain in my sphere when they are not at a place that engenders civility and respect.

  7. MSKeller says:

    I’m sort of talking to myself here, but I haven’t seen it addressed as yet, and that is the sad unintended consequence that seems to be prevalent when we can’t find an inviting place of respect and openess that invites the more sensitive folks to share their insights and experiences. We end up with a community of opinionated and outspoken folk (which is interesting, but incomplete) because we silence the voices that do not thrive in conflict.

    I’m concerned that we, who have less fear in sharing our opinions publicly may develop a mistaken view of many topics just due to the fact that many worthy and inspirational voices have been silenced by our passion and at times self-righteousness. (myself included). Any thoughts?

  8. templegoer says:

    The people I most respect are often those who have little to say for themselves, and a great deal to do. That’s part of my ambivalence about online engagement-I fear that it can distract us from more impor tant activity. Maybe it is not necessary to be able to articulate one’s own experience or indeed to focus on it. I think that’s just one way of being in the world.
    It’s lovely that you found your beloved online-my point is more that we have choices about where we put our energy, and as someone with limited energy I choose not to put it into people or situations where it can’t be helpful.

    • MSKeller says:

      I think that we all have to choose where our ‘place’ is, where we can focus best on what we feel our contributions and talents lie. Offline, I’m rather quiet and rarely engage beyond a one-on-one relationship. I dislike parties and ‘fun’ is a word that still baffles me. Online, I feel I have a voice and that at times it has and can continue to be a focus for good in the world.

      Finding our voice is important for each of us, and people like you, who are doers, are a great benefit to the world. I expect we need all types to maintain a balance in this crazy world.

  9. I’m going to link to your blog. Great written content as well as a nice style.

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