Can You Agree to Disagree?

Friends Arguing

A difference of opinion is, many times, best solved when you agree to disagree.  Granted, this only solves the issue on the surface – where etiquette and manners reside – but is done so for the sake of maintaining good relations.

When opposing views will never concede, when you know that arguing will accomplish nothing, or when you are exhausted from conflict, it is time to leave the situation on a note of mutual respect.  

Every disagreement doesn’t have to end with a win.  And ending it this way does not indicate that you have accepted your opponent’s point of view.  Nor does it mean you are weak.

It is actually a way of saying, “Live and let live.”

Avoid Emotion

Arguments are meant to persuade.  And when you are passionate about the subject of your argument, your desire to persuade can turn into a need to control someone’s belief or opinion.

Keeping your emotions in check will help you remain in persuasion mode and avoid the desire to control.  Just as important, it will help you think and speak more clearly on the topic at hand.  You will also know if and when you should exit the conversation.

Clarity is a great and helpful tool, but it suffers when strong emotions are present.  It’s always best to keep your cool!

Aim for Civility

Emotional reactions to a difference of opinion will cloud your respect for others, and vice versa.  Aim for civility by establishing personal rules that help you manage yourself in any situation.

Propriety usually breeds propriety so always strive to show an attitude of respect for yourself and everyone you encounter.  This will, at times, include leaving a situation that is getting out of hand.  Especially if the conflict is with someone you know.

Beginning the dialogue to agree to disagree may go something like this: “Sarah, you may be right.  But I prefer to stick with my opinion right now.  Can we agree to disagree on this and talk about something fun?  I’d love to hear about your trip to Italy.”

In this example, you acknowledge that Sarah’s point is valid – even if only for her.  You also expressed your desire to maintain your stance, and chose to move the conversation on to a subject she may be just as happy to talk about.

When You Don’t Reach Your Target

So you aimed for civility and misfired.  In the above example you asked Sarah if you could talk about her trip to Italy.  Unfortunately, she was already wrapped in emotion and reacted, “Well you’re wrong and I don’t want to talk to you!!”

Instead of leaving the subject of your disagreement, this type of reaction is usually a signal that you should physically remove yourself.  If you are at a gathering, you can find someone else to speak to.  Or, you may be in a position in which you need to leave altogether.

Try and make your exit as pleasant as possible.  You can always reach out to your friend at another time if you desire.

The Ultimate Outcome

When you can agree to disagree, mutual respect is achieved.  Even if your efforts to persuade were unsuccessful, you did succeed at creating the foundation of a good friendship.   And sometimes that’s the best outcome of all.


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