Monday, September 22, 2014

We Can Disagree About Things and Still Be Friends

I believe that disagreement is healthy.

Now, you need to know that this is a pretty bold statement coming from me. I generally dislike conflict. While I won't automatically back down, I generally strive for getting along with others, and finding points we have in common, rather than going around looking for a way to pick a fight.

But all that said, I think that disagreement can be a good thing.

Image via jon collier [CC BY-SA 2.0]

This past week, I made a new friend on Twitter. Thus far in our interactions, it has become very clear that we basically disagree on almost everything in the world of education today. It seems to me that we have fundamentally opposite philosophies of education. And while we've each argued our respective points on a couple of topics, it's pretty unlikely that we are going to change each other's minds. We left things on our last interaction "agreeing to disagree." But the funny part is, even in response to this, my friend said something to the effect of, "I don't want my 'agreement to disagree' to sound like tacit acceptance." Valid point. I understand where you're coming from.

The great thing about this is that we do agree on the value of sharing our ideas, even if we disagree. We had a great, professional interaction. We didn't devolve to name-calling or other negativity. We each argued our respective case, and when we came to an impasse, we were both okay with standing on our own beliefs, even if we were unable to convince the other of our "rightness."

So how is this disagreement beneficial and healthy?

I would say having the conversation was good in at least two ways:

  1. I have come to a much better understanding of his perspective. I approached our interaction--even though we disagreed--as an opportunity to learn. I came ready to listen, not just speak.
  2. I had the chance to sharpen up my own thinking and tried to articulate my own point as clearly as I could, giving the best evidence to support my ideas as possible. This is healthy, I think, and something we all could stand to do a little more often.

Friday night I was hanging out with some friends, and over the course of a conversation with a very good friend and colleague, I had a another disagreement. We were viewing a topic from fundamentally different positions, and while we each respectfully argued our perspectives, I don't see either of us changing our mind anytime soon.

But...I'm glad we had the chance to talk.

I understand where he is coming from. And I think I had the chance to continue to refine my position through out chat.

And at the end of our discussion, my friend smiled at me, and said, "You know what I like about you, Dave? We can disagree about things and still be friends."

That's what I'm talking about.

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