Moving Beyond Agreement or Disagreement

· 1 min read

Sometimes I come across people who firmly hold opinions that are diametrically opposite to mine. When this happens, it seems my choices are limited: I am required to be either for or against. Not choosing a side is seen as a weakness. Silence would be interpreted as a disagreement. This game of taking sides has no winning strategy.

In the 2022 presidential election in Brazil, two candidates came close: 50.90% vs 49.10%. Virtually half of the population voted for one candidate, while the other half chose his opponent. The same thing happened during the 2020 US presidential election. Whichever side you are on, it's probably clear as day why the opposite side is wrong, but consider for a second that they believe just as strongly that you are wrong. How can that be? Half of the population is wrong, and you are right?

A more personal example came from my weekly circling group. Circling is a relational meditation, a practice of "being with." It attracts new-agey types who typically hold liberal views and can't stop talking about their feelings. That week a man of Middle Eastern origin came to the group. After 30 minutes of being quiet, he said the following using his lecturer tone: "I've been around the world. And I've seen things. And it is my opinion that because of weak, soft, emotional men like you all, this country (United States) is going to fall."

Dramatic pause.

I have a strong opinion about his opinion. I feel emasculated and disrespected by his comment. However, if I had started arguing with him, I would have accepted his rules of the game (the game with no winning strategy). For months I've contemplated the incident, talked to people and sought advice. Finally it is clear to me that between agreeing or disagreeing a third option is always available.

When faced with opposition I remind myself that I don't know enough. This leads to asking more questions: "Oh wow! This is interesting! How did you come to this conclusion?" The opinions are a result of an individual's unique personal story. They share not because they want me to change their worldview. People just want to be understood, and being argumentative is often the only way they know how.