Let’s Talk About Disagreement

There was an interesting discussion on the radio the other day. I still listen to over the air radio in my car. When I walk around the neighborhood with my buddy, Oliver, chances are my wireless headphones are in and I am listening to some smart, funny, inspiring people on a podcast. In the car, it’s music, information, sometimes sports. I heard one of the speakers on this radio program say this, and I am paraphrasing:

Certain people with certain beliefs are good people who have bad ideas, and I disagree with those ideas, but do not devalue their humanity because of their beliefs. Other people seem to believe that people who align themselves with certain beliefs, ideologies, or ideas are bad people and have little or no value as human beings.

Whew, read that over a few times. Fully digest it and be prepared to react to that. It’s one of the things that has got me so enamored about the platform BizCatalyst 360° that Dennis Pitocco has put together. The big tent that we all sit under holds many people who hold many beliefs, expound on many topics, have many different experiences, come from different cultures, different backgrounds, many nationalities – you name it… See how many times I used the words “many” and “different?”

Please don’t take me to be a suck-up. Dennis Pitocco does not need me to sing the praises of BC 360° for it to excel. I’m only one head under the tent. There are people under that tent with whom I disagree, imagine that. Sometimes I read their pieces just so that I can reinforce my belief that I disagree with them. It’s not my thing, usually, to chime in on posts where I am in disagreement, unless I think that I can cogently, concisely, and clearly make a point that is relative to what the writer is sharing. But I love it when someone disagrees with me, challenges me, and gives me pause and cause to defend or better explain what I am talking about.

It’s not new to feel that we can disagree without being disagreeable. My very first mentor in life shared that with me, and I will never forget it. I wish that I would always be able to follow that, but as a fallible, human, human being, I ain’t perfect. That does tick me off, but I also know that it provides entertainment to my fellow humans.

Of course, I can’t tiptoe through these tulips without applying BC 360° and this discussion of disagreement without applying it to our wider culture.

If we are going to dismiss those with whom we disagree to the scrap heap and assign them status outside of humanity, how soon until we are all yammering in our own echo chambers?

I purposefully, willfully, intentionally expose myself to all kinds of thoughts and discussions, so that I learn more about important topics and see how other people think and how some of these issues impact them.

We don’t have to mainline every kind of discussion; you can tailor your listening and reading forays to your interests and your own bandwidth for tolerating disagreement. And we don’t have to like or instantly gravitate to what we are reading or hearing… but knowing how other people think, feel and react is not a bad thing. Their feeling different from you does not make them bad people. How long haven’t we been mouthing the words “Different does not equal bad.”? Isn’t it time that we don’t immediately follow that with a “But, but, but… what about…?”

Should we get to pick or choose good guys and bad guys in the marketplace of ideas? I remember someone from high school, with whom I had a close friendship with, and he told me about exercises that they had to do on the debate team. I wish I had had the wherewithal and self-awareness to be on the debate team. They had to pick laws, philosophies, concepts, whatever, and make a case as strong as possible to their debate teammates. The coach would sometimes make them give a rebuttal to the very case that they just gave arguments about. Imagine if we had to do that in the real world.

Am I advocating that we do like parents do with their kids sometimes? If there is a squabble with a sibling, put them in a room together and they can’t come out for a certain length of time… and chances are they will be giggling and finding common ground (maybe even if it’s shared camaraderie around their parents’ current treatment of them…) in a relatively short amount of time. Not practical, probably, not feasible or likely… but useful, maybe?

I love that Dennis Pitocco and the beautiful community of BC 360° are there for encouragement, sharing of ideas, educating one another, offering support, fellowship, and entertainment.

The bylaws don’t call for everyone to be in lockstep agreement on all issues, what point would there be in that? The expectation that exists for all of us is that we show respect, dignity and honor everyone with equal regard to everyone’s humanity. Is that so hard?

Now, go back up near the beginning, and if you took nothing else from my thought orgy here, please react to that statement, in the highlighted quote between the apostrophes in the second paragraph. No bickering or name-calling or you’re in the room with your sister until you can act nice…


Tom Dietzler
Tom Dietzler
Lifelong, proud somewhat strident Wisconsinite, I love my state and love to sing its praises. A bon vivant and raconteur, lover of history, literature and good conversations. Laughter and music are salves that I frequently am applying to my soul. I have spent time (too much) in manufacturing and printing and have found great joy in my current position as director of operations at a large church in the same area where I grew up. Husband to Rhonda and father of two adult children Melanie and Zack, I’m the constant companion of my five-year-old Lab, Oliver, who is my muse to a lot of my stories. I’m a fan of deep conversation and my interests are in learning and gaining wisdom, so in the last few years I have become and less politically vocal, and hopefully more respectful and open-minded. Rhonda and I sold our home in 2018, bought a condo and have traveled a bit more, golfed a bit more and are enjoying life a bit more. If you take the time to get to know me, prepare yourself for an invite to the 30th state to join the union, a gem located in the upper Midwest, full of beautiful scenery formed by the glaciers, with lots of lakes and trees and gorgeous scenery, and the nicest people that you’d ever want to meet.

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  1. Enjoyed reading your post, Tom. This is how everyone should think: “I purposefully, willfully, intentionally expose myself to all kinds of thoughts and discussions, so that I learn more about important topics and see how other people think and how some of these issues impact them.”
    Being exposed to opinions and beliefs different from ours is healthy and often produces new and better ideas. Sadly, so many people do not tolerate and welcome even respectful disagreement.
    As a construction project manager, I have to deal with opinionated, rigid and dogmatic people who think they are always right. I wish I could disengage from the discussion with them, but many times it isn’t an alternative. I always have in my mind a thought, we have more in common than differences. It helps me get through such discussions.
    I remember our discussion on LinkedIn on my BIZCATALYST post, Everyone’s Opinion Is Not of Equal Value? on opinions that are damaging or even destructive.
    Like you, I enjoy sitting under the “big tent” (BIZCATALYST 360°) together with people coming from different cultures and with different backgrounds.

  2. If at any moment the original people vanished from the face of the Earth, the world would become gray and sad, devoid of that flicker of ingenuity and creativity that all humanity needs to improve and evolve.
    Each of us has a story to tell and those who live without following a pre-established pattern always have something interesting to pass on to others. So a simple chat can become a food for thought to better understand those who live life in a completely different way from ours.
    It is the people who manage to break out of the box with their thoughts, words and actions that really change the world. Without differences (and without exchanges or clashes of ideas) humanity could not evolve.

  3. Agree to disagree seems an almost foreign concept, and I wonder if the two party system is partly responsible for this dynamic in USA.
    Europeans have 3-15 political parties to choose from and, typically, there are overlaps in policy in some areas even if there is disagreement in other areas.
    Dividing the nations up into “us” and “other” is – at least along political divides – harder when neither us not the other is half the population. It is more difficult to “other” 80% of the population in our heads and it is much harder for algorithms with an agenda of creating division.

  4. Thanks, Tom.

    Love to your five-year-old Lab. They be smarter than we be in so many ways.

    Conflict is the great illuminator. If we can ask ourselves “Where’s the tiger?”, i.e. why am I reacting to otherness of ideas, culture, politics, and spirit with fear; what have I chosen for my reaction? It is a choice, after all, though we sometimes don’t accept it as such. No matter how far we have wandered from each other, we all started in an accidental universe (as far as I know, we don’t get to choose our gender, race, family income, looks, neighborhood, and so on), so we can forgive each other for the stains and rips we have picked up along the way. We can choose to model respect – unconditional positive regard.