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

reasons agree to disagree is not an end

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.


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/

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Written By Melody Stanford Martin   
Originally Appeared On Psychology Today   
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Why “Agree to Disagree” Is Not An End, It’s A Beginning: 7 Reasons
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Melody Stanford Martin

Melody Stanford Martin is a social ethicist and communications expert, author of Brave Talk: Building Resilient Relationships in the Face of Conflict (Broadleaf Books, 2020), Founder of Brave Talk Project, Founder & CEO of Cambridge Creative Group, and a regular contributor to Psychology Today. Melody’s work focuses on rhetorical innovation, courageous community engagement, and out-of-the-box thinking to solve social problems.View Author posts