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4 Ways to Embrace Disagreement

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Disagreement can be a healthy way to expand our mindset.

A relative of mine recently had a debate with another relative, online, involving the NFL and taking the knee. To one of them, it represents one thing, to the other, something else, and both men are equally fired up and passionate. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, and could have led to escalation, epithets thrown and months of not speaking to each other. Yet they somehow kept their discussion civil, and capped it off by having dueling fundraisers, one for the Salvation Army and the other for the Southern Poverty Law Center. If only the rest of our society could be like this! For this week’s Healthy Habit, let’s think about ways to embrace disagreement, rather than running from it.

  1. Try the flip side. In a new study, conducted by the College of Business at Virginia Tech University, professor Ann-Sophie Chaxel looked at cognitive consistency, that is, the way humans tend to process information in ways that confirm our preexisting beliefs. To break out of that, Chaxel says, we need to deliberately seek out people who have opposing views and expose ourselves to beliefs that are different from our own. Otherwise we think we are making choices, but we’re really not.  
  2. But, but… Yes, dipping into an opposing worldview like this requires Nonjudgmental Listening. No interruptions, no jumping in, just put on your pith helmet and go on an expedition, exploring the mind jungle of that other viewpoint. Use the trusty phrases “Huh.” “How about that.” “I see.” Just observe and listen.
  3. Be humble. For all that we think we know about a subject or a person, we generally only see the little iceberg tip poking out of the water. Acknowledge there is usually a lot more to the story.
  4. Value disagreement. George S. Patton said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” We don’t need to all think alike. We do, however, need to treat each other with respect and kindness.

How do you embrace disagreements? How do you wrangle them when they feel like they have become less than cordial? Tell us in the comments section below.   


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Kathryn Drury Wagner is a wellness writer based in Savannah. She's been a contributor to Spirituality & Health for many years, and she loves sharing ways to build a healthy, mindful, and sustainable lifestyle. 


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