How many times have you heard this catch phrase? It usually comes at the tail end of an argument when one person irritated and frustrated that they cannot impose their point of view says “Cant we just agree to disagree?” Although in theory it is a good thing to be able to do; few people understand what it actually means to agree to disagree!
Agree to disagree does not mean that we just give up on an argument that we feel is important and then hold onto resentment, anger, irritation, frustration or pain because of it. It also doesn’t mean that we give in, say we are sorry, or feel that we have done something wrong in thought or action. It simply means that we understand we will be unable to see eye to eye and that it is okay to just disagree on certain things in life. The funny thing is that we are able to do this all the time with our friends, teachers, strangers and even the President – but are very rarely able to do it with our spouses or family. For some reason many of us are inflated with this idea that because we are married or because we are flesh and blood – we must agree on everything.
Similarly, when we don’t see eye to eye with someone on an idea it doesn’t necessarily mean that one person is right or wrong. Arguing this would be as useless as arguing which color of the rainbow if the prettiest. Some prefer blue while others like red. This is how people are! We all have different ideas about things and much of the time they are best kept to ourselves - especially if we know ahead of time we won’t be able to sway the hard headed mind of someone else.
When people argue there are usually more things going on than just the argument at hand. Some people in life just feel like they have to be right! They feel like unless someone agrees with them their way of thinking is not confirmed or accepted. If all people were like this there would be few inventions. But, in an argument our feelings are on board and we strive hard to change someone else’s mind. There is a deep need to be right and to be in agreement. Realistically, few people agree on much although they pretend they do. When it comes to relationships all people have a dialogue in their own mind and use psychological tricks to either end the fight or make something seem amicable. But as they are walking away, they are thinking “he is so dumb to really think that way!” It sounds funny because it is true; but the raw truth is that this type of thinking can cause lots of resentment down the road.
Agree to disagree is not just about ending an argument or throwing in the towel on trying to convince someone. It is also about saying silently that you have enough self respect and respect for another to let it go! It is about realizing that two people who love each other can have varying ideas on everything and still love each other; and about seeing the disagreement as just one of those things in life you cannot change. It is about deciding that you don’t need to be right and that you don’t need to be confirmed by someone else just like you don’t have the obligation to fluff the ego of another. Agreeing to disagree means that it is okay, natural and normal to be different and understanding that it is always our differences that enable us to offer people something more in life.
Agreeing to disagree also means understanding the importance of not being angry for any length of time; especially about things you cannot change. When you decide to just leave something the way it is, accept the fact that you and someone else think differently and move forward- you are making a statement about the trust and importance of the relationship at hand. You are also making a larger statement about the healthy state of self worth that you feel. Additionally, agreeing to not let the little things build up and become vicious monsters shows an immense sense of trust and respect to your self and the other person involved. We agree to disagree in life when we feel supported and loved and safe in our differences.
It is always best to just let some things go. Being able to realize which things to let go and which things to hang on to is an important relationship skill. If we spend time pretending to agree to disagree just for the sake of making things nice again; we lose our voice, our confidence, and become hesitant and angry about the relationship. If agreeing to disagree is something we can’t really do on the inside; we shouldn’t offer to do so. In life, there are things to fight for and there are things not worth the energy of an argument. Being able to decipher the difference is truly a great gift and enables us to become wonderful partners to the many people in our lives.