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When is it okay to disagree?

Is it okay to disagree?

Often when we talk with someone, we are keen to convince them of something or have them “see the light” and change their perspective.  It seems like the current political and health discussions are very polarizing and causing great discord between people who are grounded in opposing camps but when is it okay to disagree?

Perhaps we need to be reminded that communication, while sometimes researched based, is still based in opinion.  A good way to understand this better is thinking about colors.  Most of us can understand what we are talking about when we say “the sky is blue” or “bananas are yellow”.  What would someone who is color blind say?  Are they wrong because they don’t see blue or yellow? Can they be right if they think bananas and the sky are variations on gray?

It is also important to note any bias in the information we are conveying.  If you are using terminology that is interpretive in nature, you may be slanting the outcome based on your understanding of the word.  For example, republican vs. democrat, liberal vs. conservative.  Do they bring up specific thoughts or images when you think of them?  Why is that?  Is it based on your experience with someone who identified that way or are you globalizing into polarizing categories based on a definition you have set?  What if the other person is doing the same thing?  Who is “correct”?

Perhaps a better way to think, is that communication is just a conveyance of information and that the ultimate decision on interpretation is up to the person on the receiving end.  If it is not interpreted in the way that the speaker intended, then we need to remember that this uniqueness is what makes our human race so amazing.  Everyone is different, from our fingerprints to our opinions.  We are not wrong because our fingerprints are different.  We are not wrong because our opinions are different either.

I encourage everyone to work on their distress tolerance skills before blaming someone else for having a different opinion.  We can try to hear what others are saying without having to agree.  Understanding is not agreement or acceptance….it just means we see the option.  We form our own ideas and perspectives from information we have gathered.

Stephanie Phillips, LCMHC

Stephanie Phillips, LCMHC, NCC, CCTP
Psychotherapist & Owner
The Mindly Group, PLLC

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