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Can We Agree to Disagree?

February 14, 2011

I’m currently in the midst of writing a series of blog posts that stem from an email that was simple yet powerful. 46 short sentences in the form of ideas, thoughts and opinions. Some deep, some lighthearted, some spiritual, some theoretical. While I couldn’t relate to each sentence (I’m not in a relationship, I don’t have kids and I’m not overly religious), I was inspired by their simplicity and wanted to take on the challenge of writing about every one of them. I’ve done two so far and when I went to select my third I was immediately struck by the following:

You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

Opinions. We have ’em. They’re part of what makes us uniquely human and, more often than not, we want them to be heard in some form or fashion. Before the arrival of social networks, we voiced them to anyone who would listen. Our family, our friends, our neighbors. Anyone. We made our opinion known and that was that. It hit the ears of those listening and those ears only. If they agreed, they agreed whole-heartedly. If they disagreed, they told us politely. We may have argued but eventually someone would back down because, let’s face it, most of us are not programmed to embrace face to face conflict. We simply put discord aside and wait for another opportunity to have our voice heard.

Now, things are different. We don’t have to wait for someone to lend us their ears. When we have an opinion, we can make it known to not just our immediate circle but to any and every circle we can get our hands on. We clamber, rush and run to post it on Facebook, blast it out on Twitter and write about it on our blog and the blogs of others (just for good measure).

The fear and unease of face to face conflict has also been diluted by the computers and smartphones we can, and often do, hide behind. When someone agree’s with us online we shower them with “likes” and words of praise. But, when someone disagree’s with us online we’re less likely to back down and put discord aside. Words on the internet live forever and we’d hate for those words to indicate that our opinion was in same way wrong. The dawn and rise of the social online world has empowered us to speak up and speak loud. Today, we defend our opinions with more passion, stronger intent and deeper determination.

Is this behavior of standing up and speaking loud a bad thing? No it’s not. Thanks to Mr. Kenneth Cole and Groupon, I have been more captivated and enthralled by people’s opinions than I have in a long time. In fact, I, myself, have been more “vocal” about my opinions than I normally would have been.

What I do fear at times is that all this “power” we’ve been given may soon prove to be too much. Will we no longer be able to agree to disagree? Will our desires to win, be right and be heard soon outweigh our respect and appreciation for differing opinions?

Only time will tell.


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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 1, 2011 9:37 am

    Love the name of your blog.. so clever. Second, IMHO there always have been and always will be those who can’t or won’t agree to disagree. Some who feel so strongly that this political position or that religious tenet or that absurd TV show is the Rightest, Smartest, Bestest, Awesomest ever that they refuse to even entertain differing views. They don’t see them as different, just wrong.

    One of the things I liked about “The West Wing” in the beginning was that it presented characters not afraid of the debate itself; not scared of being “wrong” or disagreed with, knowing there would be other arguments – smart ones, popular ones. Just the understanding that for every opinion there would be a counter and it’s good to listen to them all, agree to disagree then find common ground and solutions for everyone.

    Yes social media has made it easier to discuss and debate, but it’s the public fishbowl. Talking with a few family members and friends – if we had a hunch they’d understand – that was fine, but it stopped there. It didn’t get back to our whole community: bosses, employees, potential clients, old high school pals AND all of their connections. As you say those words on the Internet will forever follow us which is why I don’t voice my personal views on some subjects. So knowing the world could possibly be watching or searching, I think some people including myself are reluctant to mix it up, for fear of being wrong or misunderstood.

    That said, there will be those who don’t care and will shout to everyone what they believe to be true. Others will respect debate, others will simply be social where their voices are appreciated, where they can agree to disagree. FWIW.

    • March 1, 2011 8:44 pm

      Davina – couldn’t agree more with what you are saying here. What I’m continually amazed at is the power feel they now wield because of social media. That power has almost made that need to “argue but find common ground” obsolete. Many of us in this space are choosing to ignore the common ground altogether because we don’t want our opinion to be wrong. It’s fascinating to watch how long debates last and how intensely they magnify in such a short amount of time.

      I too avoid certain subjects and areas for that particular reason. While this space and others are my personal social networks, they still represent me as a brand and a professional. We need to be painfully aware of that as we move forward and navigate our way through the social weeds. Thank you for commenting, I look forward to maybe our first debate one day?? šŸ˜‰

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