Note: This article assumes people are decent, sound beings capable of entertaining a thought, any thought.
All disagreements arise from a difference in thoughts. But difference in thoughts is not necessarily a bad thing. Imagine if all the people thought and moved and worked the same way, how boring and grey would that world look like.
No, differences are good. But disagreements arise when people hold thoughts that are not the same kind or have not originated from the same source.
There are only two types of things people disagree about: Opinions and facts.
“I never allow myself to hold an opinion on anything that I don’t know the other side’s argument better than they do” ― Charlie Munger
Opinions are individualistic. Everyone has their own and everyone’s opinions are subjective. It’s useless to argue someone’s opinion when we don’t know the environment or conditions where he’s coming from. Our opinions are formed by our inputs. We think on our own but our environment and the people we take inputs from can cause a lot of biases in us forming our own opinions. A person playing chess from the age 6 because his parents pushed them in that direction and gave them an environment that nurtured this skill will have an opinion that chess is probably the answer to everything wrong in this world. A fisherman who works 16hrs a day and hardly has time to get some sleep will probably think chess is pretty much the most useless thing in the world. These are opinions, not facts.
Facts are something universal. Something which is concrete and is the truth no mater what the situation or who is involved. The sun is a fact. Productivity in workspaces is linked to the designs of coffee mugs of the employees is not a fact (at least last I checked, unless some serious research has surfaced). If we take the previous example, no matter if those two people like chess or not, they won’t disagree that the earth goes around the sun once an year (or maybe they will, it was a bad example, sorry) or that Barack Obama was ever a president of a country, or that fishes don’t fly. Facts, once created, are un-alterable. We’re not yet living in the George Orwell’s dystopian world where history is changeable.
“You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” ― Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Two kinds of thoughts give a cross section of 3 types of disagreements:
One way disagreements arise because we force our opinions down the throat of others. Oftentimes people can’t wrap this idea around our heads that different people might have different opinions based on their thought processes and the environment they’re coming from. And that other person might have a better opinion than mine. It’s a little difficult for people to think that two people holding different opinions can both be right and no one is wrong at the same time.
Second way disagreements arise is because we’re stating a fact and the other person just challenges it. These are mostly easy to conclude with a simple Google search but can cause bitterness if you’ve been proven publicly wrong. Most common example is people correcting other people’s grammar, the correct answer is not difficult to find. Disagreeing about which year did your team win the world cup is useless, there’s only one answer and it’s pretty much set in stone. Don’t let your ego take a hit if your brain can’t remember some useless fact.
The third and the most important but dangerous way disagreements arise is because we often times fail to recognise a fact from an opinion. Everyone has made this mistake at some point in their lives, throwing off an idea on top of your mind before checking its validity first.
“You can disagree without being disagreeable.” ― Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Most people just blindly shout out their opinions as facts. And once you start an argument and take a stand on something, it’s very difficult to take it back. Because changing your argument would mean you got it wrong the first time, and no one wants to be proven wrong by anyone, let alone by themselves. And worse than getting proved wrong is admitting that we were wrong to the very people we gave our false opinion to.
We go to lengths to protect and validate what we say, even if we’re not totally sure about about the validity of it all. So we try to mount on the evidence to support our argument, to re-enforce it, however wrong it might be.
Disagreements are a natural part of having a conversation. If a person is capable of entertaining a thought, they will have disagreements. But it’d be helpful if we can take a step back and check ourselves if we took a wrong turn there and letting our egos and hearts do the thinking instead of our brains.