Why “Agree to Disagree” Is Not An End, It’s A Beginning: 7 Reasons

reasons agree to disagree is not an end

It’s that familiar feeling of rising heart rate, that bolt of anxiety when someone we love or admire spouts ideas that we strongly oppose. Often these conversations end abruptly when one or both people exclaim in utter frustration, “Well, I guess we will have to agree to disagree.”

Who can blame us for this visceral reaction? Discussions about hard topics such as politics, religion, or social issues have ended decades-long friendships and eroded familial bonds. Talking about these things can feel like playing with fire.

The stakes don’t just feel high, they are high. These are not opinions about which breakfast cereal is best. These are our core values, our beliefs, and often our personal identities at stake. Most humans want the world to be better, but we often have drastically divergent visions of what that should look like.

It is in this space of sheer impasse that I ask you to linger.

Related: 5 Effective Steps For Conflict Reduction

Disagreement Is The Beginning

The trope “agree to disagree” is often the end of conversations. But what if it was the beginning? What if the point of the conversation is not to agree, but to have a conversation? What would happen if instead of trying to change or control each other, we focus on seeing and understanding each other?

I am a conflict transformation specialist. In my book and courses, I coach people facing difficult conversations to 1) resist using control, 2) embrace disagreement, and 3) focus on relationship- and community-building.

In other words, I recommend agreeing to disagree before the conversation starts. It can be incredibly helpful to begin a conversation with, “Yes, I will talk about this difficult subject with you. But how about we decide beforehand not to try to change each other’s minds?”

Here’s why this works.

7 Reasons Why “Agree to Disagree” Is Not an End, It’s a Beginning

1. Disagreement Is Healthy.

A society without disagreement is not a stable or free society. In order for our ideas to be strong, they need to be able to be challenged. When someone takes the time to disagree with us in a respectful way, we should work to welcome it as a gift and an opportunity to sharpen each other.

When we learn to be less threatened and more welcoming of disagreement, many times the quality of our conversations improves.

Related: 7 “Love-Saving” Words You Can Use For Handling Conflict

2. When We Debate To Win, Winning Becomes A Distracting Goal.

Unless we are arguing in a formal debate setting, it’s all too easy to focus on clap-backs and “gotcha” moments while losing sight of the bigger picture: mutual edification and growth. This is especially problematic when one party is naturally better or more experienced in debate skills than the other.

While debate has its place, it can be beneficial to set it aside.

healthy disagreements

3. It’s Important To Challenge Cultures Of Control.

When we attempt to change someone’s mind and they resist, it’s incredibly tempting to exert control and dominance. Control not only creates imbalances of power, but it fosters frustration and resentment (a phenomenon known as “reactance”) and erodes trust.

The stark truth of a free society is that we can’t control other people or force them to believe what we want. Such attempts are fundamentally unjust. Even if we think our ideas are righteous and flawless, employing control or manipulation dampens our cause, muddles our communication, and hurts chances we might have had at fair persuasion.

4. Changing Our Minds Is Hard And Uncomfortable.

According to cognitive dissonance theory, most of us experience tension and frustration when we are presented with new information that challenges our belief systems. Learning new information or a new point of view can set off a domino effect of other beliefs we hold that may also be challenged. Even our relationships can be challenged when we change our minds.

As we grapple with the dissonance of holding conflicting ideas at once, having someone attempt to control or force us into an agreement may exacerbate that tension. Under pressure, someone experiencing cognitive dissonance may be more likely to reject new information instead of grapple with it to its full and reasonable extent. In other words, changing our minds is hard enough without someone pressuring us to do so.

Related: The 5 Faces Of Fundamental Human Conflict

5. When We Suspend Our Need To Convert, We Make Space To Learn.

If I walk into a room where I know people are going to try to change me in any way, I am going to walk in defensively. However, if I walk into a room where I know I am allowed to disagree, and I will be treated with respect, I will not only be less defensive but it’s also more likely that I will be interested to learn about what others think as well.

When our guards can come down and we understand a broad range of ideological choices are available to us, our curiosity can thrive.

6. Reasoning With Each Other Strengthens Relationships.

As we learn to engage in an impasse, we will have more opportunities to give credit where it’s due. Statements like, “You make a good point…” “I agree with you that…” and “That’s something we share in common…” are powerful ways to show a conversation partner we are reasonable and well-meaning.

Demonstrating that we want to believe the best about someone boosts respect and collaboration.

7. Persuasion And Sharing Power Must Co-Exist.

True persuasion—ethical persuasion—does not attempt to shame or dominate. It invites conversation, arguing passionately and wholeheartedly for a belief, but stops short of overpowering or manipulating.

When the goal is to share power, not to hoard power, we invite transformation and strengthen relationships instead of tearing them down. Even if we never agree, we will have built relationships that can better handle disagreement—and that is a worthy endeavor in and of itself.

In short, how do we make talking about hard things less horrible and scary?

The answer lies in the simple art of discussion. Not converting, not dominating, not shaming, not rejecting, not name-calling, not controlling, not debating, not forcing agreement or resolution.

Related: 5 Ways To Stay Calm During An Argument With Your Spouse

Simply. Talking.

Letting people around us be where they are and meeting them there. Asking them to see us, as we see them. Appreciating their values, seeing their feelings, their worries, their fears. Giving them credit where it’s due. Showing kindness even across great difference and frustration.

The learning that can come from this kind of communication is tremendous. When we throw off animosity and choose to meet each other in respect, we create a shame-free environment for anyone to say, “You know, I never thought about it that way.” In such a space, growth and education are the focus, not winning or losing.

People are able to change their minds freely, because they want to, not because they are submitting to a dominant force. Therefore, appreciating a new perspective doesn’t have to threaten their pride.

Strangely enough, letting go of the need for control can sometimes bring us the agreement we most desire. And if it doesn’t, at the very least, we will have had a great conversation.

References:

Martin, Melody Stanford. "What is Conflict Transformation?" BraveTalkProject.com, December 29, 2019. https://bravetalkproject.com/what-is-conflict-transformation/

Vollmer, A., & Vetter, A. (2017). "Disagreement as an opportunity, not a threat [Review of the book Constructive controversy: Theory, research, practice, by D. W. Johnson]." Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 23(2), 191–192. https://doi.org/10.1037/pac0000242

Steindl, et al. "Understanding Psychological Reactance: New Developments and Findings" Zeitschrift für Psychologie 2015; 223(4): 205–214. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4675534/

Buckley, Thea. "What happens to the brain during cognitive dissonance?" Scientific American Mind 26, 6, 72 (November 2015) doi:10.1038/scientificamericanmind1115-72b https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-happens-to-the-brain-during-cognitive-dissonance1/

McLead, Saul. "Cognitive Dissonance Theory" SimplyPsychology.org, Feb 5, 2018 https://www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive-dissonance.html.

Inesi, et al. "Power and choice: their dynamic interplay in quenching the thirst for personal control" Psychol Sci. 2011 Aug;22(8):1042-8. doi: 10.1177/0956797611413936. Epub 2011 Jun 24. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21705519/

Contact Melody at melodystanfordmartin.com. for such informative articles.


Written By Melody Stanford Martin   
Originally Appeared On Psychology Today   
reasons agree to disagree is not an end pin

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply



Up Next

5 Powerful Benefits of Imaginative Thinking

Imaginative Thinking: Powerful Benefits Of Imagination

The benefits of imaginative thinking are unending to be honest. However, in this article we are going to explore five of the most interesting and powerful benefits of imagination and imaginative thinking.

KEY POINTS

Imagination is a fundamental aspect of human life.

Imagination enables one to look beyond the world as it is.

Imagination helps create different lenses through which to see the world.

Our



Up Next

What Kind Of Angry Are You? The 4 Types Of Anger

The Types Of Anger: What Kind Of An Angry Person Are You?

Everyone gets angry at some point, and anger is probably one of the most common emotions we feel. But did you know there are different types of anger, namely, 4 types of anger? This article is going to talk about the different types of anger and how they look like. So, what is your anger style? Let’s find out!

Anger may rear its emotional head in irritation and annoyance, self-pity and withdrawal, envy and resentment, or vengeance and violence. Our anger may fill the room with dominance or veil itself in anxiety or avoidance.

Those who internalize anger may question whether they have the right to be angry and avoid direct confrontation. They stuff their anger down to prevent offending, being disliked, or losing control.

Those who externalize anger resort to blaming, shaming, and engage i



Up Next

Stop Texting Your Ex ‘Happy Birthday’ – Here Are 5 Reasons Why!

Stop Texting Your Ex Happy Birthday: Important Reasons

Have you found yourself scrolling through Snapchat memories, thinking of texting your ex happy birthday? You think to yourself, can sending a simple “Happy Birthday” text hurt? But don’t be fooled by temptation – it’s never a good idea.

Life is full of ups and downs, but some things are better left alone. Making contact with them on their special day could stir up old emotions and put you in a tough place.

It not only opens doors to issues but also sends mixed signals, confuses both parties involved, and even more so can bring back haunting memories that should stay in the



Up Next

50+ Deep Self Reflection Questions For Personal Growth

Deep Self Reflection Questions For Personal Growth

Are you ready for some deep self reflection about growth? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Self reflection questions are like little nuggets of wisdom that can help you uncover and understand your true self, aid in your personal growth, and make sense of this crazy journey called life.

Whether you’re looking to understand yourself more deeply, set new goals, or simply gain clarity, these self reflection questions are going to serve as your trusty companions. So grab a cozy spot, maybe a cup of tea, and get ready to dive into the depths of your mind, and do some much-needed self reflection about growth.

Related: 40 Deep Questions To Ask I



Up Next

4 Benefits Of Moving Meditation And How To Do It: Dance Your Stress Away!

Ways To Elevate Your Spirit with Moving Meditation Magic

Do you find meditation challenging? Is sitting still during meditation difficult for you? Then you would be more than glad to know about moving meditation. If traditional meditation isn’t working for you, then you can still find inner peace while on the move.

Welcome to the world of moving meditation, where the gentle flow of movement becomes a pathway to inner harmony and mindfulness. Instead of zoning out on a cushion, you can get your zen on while walking, dancing, or even washing dishes. Sounds pretty cool, right? 

Today, let us explore what is moving meditation, discover its various types, delve into the numerous movement meditation benefits, and learn how to incorporate this beautiful practice into our daily lives. Here every step, sway, and scrub becomes a pathway to inner peace. So, let’s dive in.



Up Next

How To Stop A Racing Mind: 7 Techniques For Mastering Mental Turbulence

How To Stop A Racing Mind: Ways To Tame A Racing Mind

Ever found yourself lying in bed, desperately trying to sleep after a long, tiring day, but your mind refuses to do so? It feels like your mind is racing like a Formula 1 car on caffeine. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there! That relentless stream of thoughts can feel overwhelming, leaving you feeling restless and exhausted. So, how to stop a racing mind?

In this article, we’ll talk about the meaning of racing thoughts and how to calm a busy mind. Let’s explore the seven best ways to stop your mind from racing, and discover the blissful art of finding your inner calm amidst all the chaos.

First, let’s talk about the meaning of racing thoughts.

Related:



Up Next

8 Ways How To Heal Your Inner Teenager: Say Goodbye To Teenage Wounds And Thrive

How To Heal Your Inner Teenager: Life-Changing Steps

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by emotions, react impulsively, or experience a sense of insecurity and self-doubt? These are signs that your inner teenager might be in need of healing. Let’s explore how to heal your inner teenager.

Hey there, soul wanderer! In life, we often feel stuck, anxious, fearful, and out of touch with our inner selves. This can make us behave and react in certain ways that are reminiscent of our teenage years. This might happen due to certain negative experiences, traumas, and emotional wounds that deeply affected us when we were a teenager. 

Just like a physical wound, our emotional wounds from our teenage years can linger and affect us well into adulthood. This is why healing is absolutely crucial for self-discovery and empowerment. But how to heal the inner teenager?