I want to continue with the ideas I began laying out last month, and delve more into how we can make disagreements a productive process rather than a negative one.
The reason that other people disagree with us is not that there is something wrong with them, but rather that the evidence they are using to form their opinion is different than the evidence that we used to form ours. We must understand that the evidence (or beliefs) we use in decision-making simply leads us to different conclusions. This point is simple when people are merely uninformed. We can provide the missing information, and the disagreement usually goes away. But in our most contentious arguments, the difference in evidence that counts is not a matter of miss information. It is instead a matter of us having various perspectives of personal information in the form of experiences or personal connections that are trusted to that person. While our data comes from different sources or experiences that we trust. This process does not make one person right or wrong, it just makes their thoughts different from ours. The problem is not that they are trusting sources that they should not trust while we rely on sources that we should. Even our bitterest opponents often have little rational choice but to believe the things they do; that is just the way our brains work. This does not mean someone is wrong about the facts or that we never make mistakes in reasoning ourselves. It does mean that we should be far more careful in judging each other’s statements and arguments. It does mean that we are usually to quick to judge a person’s intelligence and character than we often are.
Typically, we need to start by examining our truths. There is so much information in front of us that it is hard to know what is actually true. The world of social media has also made it much easier for us to find those who carry the same point of view, which causes us to entrench even further in our beliefs. Creating a positive outcome in disagreement requires us to do inner work about our own opinions and ideas before we do the outer work of trying to bring others to our way of thinking.
To help avoid these problems, we have to ask ourselves: Do you care about people or issues? Strength in this world is just the ability to care more deeply than anyone else around. But, when we put that strength in problems rather than people, we drive the wedge of disagreement that further divides us. So, I will ask again: Do you care about people or issues?
When someone irritates you, you must know that it is your own opinion, which has aggravated you. Try not to get carried away with appearance. You choose the irritation, not someone else.
So, the first step in creating positive outcomes in disagreement is to focus on people before we focus on issues. I know, this puts the ownness on you as an individual in any conflict. But, all we can control is our behavior. We cannot control others, but we can always make sure we are meeting difficult situations with the right ideas and perspectives to help us move forward.
Focus on you first, then worry about others. Put your care in people first, then in issues.