02 Jul Why We Need to Stop “Agreeing to Disagree”
The problem with saying, “Let’s agree to disagree,” is that we often shut down important conversations in an attempt to preserve our relationships. Unfortunately, when we take this approach we don’t allow our connections to deepen. Often, we use this phrase to avoid arguments or conflicts entirely, convincing ourselves that it is simply easier to end the conversation and keep our opinions to ourselves. In counselling sessions with couples, I am often challenging them to rethink their prior assumptions about arguing, as many of them assume that having arguments with their partner is considered unhealthy. Instead, I emphasize that it is how you argue that truly matters. When we find ourselves becoming overwhelmed with an argument, our first response shouldn’t be to “agree to disagree”, as this is not a productive solution. Instead, a better approach could be to take a few minutes to cool off, returning to the discussion when we are in a better mental space, and prepared to truly listen to our partner.
Another reason why “agreeing to disagree” may not be the best solution to our arguments, is that it can cause us to form inaccurate assumptions of people who don’t share our same beliefs. Sometimes, instead of assuming that we simply cannot agree, we may need to ask more exploratory questions such as: Why is this so important to you? Why is it so important to me? What has influenced you to think this way? What can I learn from the perspective you are presenting? If we pushed through such conversations with the goal being to listen or learn something new, instead of thinking that we can make the other person see it our way, this could positively change the dialogue. I am by no means saying that you should agree with the other person, but am challenging you to actively listen to them instead. By choosing to respectfully listen to someone else, you can better reflect on your own perspectives and thoughts, allowing you to develop a deeper understanding and connection with both yourself and the other person!
Ultimately, we must be cautious of using the phrase “agree to disagree,” as a way to resolve issues in our relationships. This approach does not help us to achieve a resolution, but instead often contributes to building frustration, anger and resentment.
Written by Bliss Therapist Tammy Benwell. Learn more about Tammy and get her secret “Tips From the Couch” here.
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