Please, don’t agree with me.
Disagreement is good for your health, your mental well being and your outlook. It will make you a better friend and a better lover. You will become more wealthy and happier when you disagree.
Agree with this statement? I hope not. Disagreement may not make your life perfect. In fact, you may lose a few friends who are weak and looking for nothing from you except your support. Sometimes support means disagreeing agreeably.
A recent comment on one of my articles made me react. I thought the comment was coming from a negative place, but then I thought about it. The comment was about disagreement, but it came from a genuinely thoughtful place. It taught me something, healthy disagreement will make you stop and consider.
Excellent, Sean! I also just read the “Risks of Being a Rational Man” blog. Loved it too. Thought I would find something to disagree with – could not find a thing. You worded it beautifully. Thanks! Steve
Disagreement is not a popular outlook, except in the election years. That’s when everyone comes up with an opinion. Having an opinion is different than disagreeing. Opinions are free, but disagreement will cost you. You have to live with consideration, reflection and a healthy dose of critical thinking.
My wife is really good at disagreeing with me. Sometimes it is a little hard to take, because I look for support and honestly sometimes I take her disagreement personally. But it’s not meant as an attack, rather her disagreement comes from a place of passion and thoughtfulness.
Here is how I responded to Steve,
Steve, Reading to disagree is brilliant. Too often “we” (meaning “I”) read to find what agrees with our mindset and our perspective. But reading to disagree is about expanding our mindset and our world. I might just have to write about that… and then disagree with what I have just written!
I am not a naturally disagreeable person. I was raised to be polite, to not interrupt and to mind my manners. We each have a history to deal with and your history may predispose you, like me, to living an agreeable life. But agreeableness isn’t the same as happiness.
Here is what disagreement is NOT:
- It is not negativity or negative thinking (However, negative thinking is probably more important than positive thinking because it prepares us by looking for the weakness in our plans and our mindset, and then we can make corrections).
- It is not pessimism.
- It is not being a hater or a troll, looking to smash anyone who has an original thought or challenges your thinking. Trolls and haters find solace in their small-minded tribes. Disagreement means you are willing to stand up for your opinion and care about the opinions of others enough to think about what they are saying to you.
- It is not living without concern for other people. Living without compassion leads to isolation and emptiness.
- It is not discussing politics or religion. These are easy topics to disagree with and become personal attacks just because we think we know the answer to the world’s problems. Don’t avoid these topics, just think about your questions first.
Disagreement literally means the state of being at variance. It means that you are willing to go against what other people, or the crowd, is thinking. The root words mean not conforming, not settling.
It is your disagreements that can set you free. First you have to begin by disagreeing with yourself. Then, you can disagree with other people. But know that you have to be prepared to be annoying and even misunderstood sometimes. My wife is a deeply passionate person but sometimes people take her the wrong way because she is not afraid to speak about her disagreement.
I have a friend who is an atheist and I happen to believe that there is a God. We have some interesting conversations and honestly most times I don’t have very good answers. But having good answers is not really disagreement is about. Disagreement is not about having the right things to say, but about making you consider, or re-consider.
Disagreement is not the same thing as being disagreeable. My wife is loyal. She is a good friend who sticks up for her people. And my atheist friend even came to church with me, not because I tried to convert him, but just to support me when I gave a talk about Faith and Mental Health: A healthy mind will lead to a healthy soul (click here for the article that is based on the talk). We are also spending Christmas with he and his wife (do you get the irony here?), just because we enjoy their company and because disagreement is not a good enough reason to not be friends.
Disagreement may not make you richer, more attractive or more positive. But it will bring out your true friendships. It will mature you and it will ground you. If you want to become more disagreeable, I don’t really have a lot of advice. Just think for yourself. That’s it.
If you really want to do something practical, you could try out one of these ideas: Find one conversation to disagree with each day; Read one thing each day that makes you uncomfortable, then disagree with it; Or read an article, and look for something you take issue with. But I tell you, these ideas are pretty weak. No, I’m not being negative, I’m just practicing what I preach: I disagree with what I just said.
Disagreement is mostly about questioning. Asking yourself questions and not settling for surface answers. These are a few questions that I asked myself recently. Honestly, my answers disturbed me. And being disturbed is the first sign that change is on it’s way:
- Do I feel more at peace, or more disturbed? Sometimes our disagreements will disturb us… and they should.
- Am I disagreeing because I am rebelling for it’s own sake, to gain power, or because I have a point? Sometimes you and I just want to say “F-Off” to the world or those in authority. Anger and rebellion is not the same as disagreement. Rebellion can be a working out of our family issues or may be a reaction rather than involving any deep thought at all. Take the time to have a point, rather than just knee-jerk.
- Am I connected or am I using my disagreement to further isolate or distance myself? Am I trying to push people away, or just presenting my opinion? Our disagreements should come from a place of commitment to each other and caring. Being disagreeable might just mean you are a jerk. Don’t be a jerk or a troll. Just don’t.
- Do I take time to dream? And who do I share my dreams with? Sharing your dreams is a sure way to generate disagreement. People won’t agree with your goals. Don’t expect it and don’t get discouraged. Sure, your goals may be unrealistic and may take 10x more work, time and energy than you think. But they are still important.
Being an artist often times means walking alone, it means flying in the face of convention, doing what other people think is irrational or silly, seeing truths before others believe they are true. It means believing wildly and doing things that other people just don’t get. Matthew Quick, author of Silver Linings Playbook
Disagreement will make you an artist of sorts. Nope, you don’t need to grab a brush or take up pottery. Disagreement is about being willing to really see things. It is about being willing to be misunderstood.
I hope you have found something that you disagree with. And please, let me have it in the comments. If you disagree with this piece, please share it with all of your friends and invite them to read it and think for themselves. You may actually get people thinking and begin a conversation.
If this piece made you think, you may want to read more of my work:
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Keep it Real
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