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Without Disagreement, There Is No Genuine Engagement?

Writing on social media, one should be prepared for disagreeing with their expressed views and ideas. Some people simply cannot tolerate disagreement.

After publishing my latest articleHow Much Time Is Left for Homo Sapiens?, in which I wrote about the so-called Doomsday argument, the term argument came to my mind as a topic due to its different meanings. Having discussions on the article on several social media, and seeing how people give voice to disagreement, also gave me an idea for this article.

Etymology suggests that the term argument itself originated in Latin from the word argumentum, which means proof, evidence, reason.

Yet, it is not used in the same sense as the term proof. Namely, ‘proof’ is a fact that proves something is true or exists, whereas ‘argument’ is a logical construction that has no property of truthfulness but logical correctness (as in the Doomsday argument).

One definition of argument implies dispute or quarrel, a verbal fight, arises from a disagreement between two or more persons holding differing views where each side defends his or her point of view against others. Mostly is seen on topics concerning national politics and religion.

I do not see an argument as a dispute or quarrel. Quite the opposite, it is the opportunity for healthy and constructive conversation, exchanging ideas, and sharing views with reasonable people.

Making an argument actually means to take a position on a particular issue providing statements, reasons to justify or refute that position. You should always expect disagreement with your point of view, regardless of how clearly and consistently reasoned. Even when statements are true and proven, people will find reasons to disagree with your argument.

However, in evaluating another person’s argument, human reasoning is biased. We do not see our own mistakes in reasoning but being vigilant in finding errors in the reasoning of othersespecially if we disagree with them. We are all guilty of it! I found myself many times in the trap of my own biases, despite my critical thinking ability.

Being biased is in human nature. Understanding the importance of being open to different perspectives and willing to discuss topics that may contradict our beliefs and values make us less biased.

Disagreement is inevitable. We are all different because of different backgrounds, levels of knowledge, and experiences that shape our biased perceptions and affect the development of our belief system.

Diversity in ideas and views is beautiful, but handling diversity requires dialogue. People who have trouble separating their opinions from their identity are not able to have a conversation that respects diversity.

While reading comments on social media, I wonder again and again why so many people cannot civilly discuss disagreement, explain their view, and ask questions to understand the other person’s perspective. Many avoid further engagement with those who “dare” to disagree with their point of view.

Discussing disagreement is not only about changing each other positions on a particular issue. It is about understanding each other’s views, agreeing to disagree, and possibly learning from diversity.

When someone wrongly believes that Earth is flat, I still want to know how he or she came to that conclusion and what arguments support such beliefs. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, even wrong and misguided one. It is up to us to decide is something worth disagreement.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could give voice to disagreement without the risk of ruining relationships?

Because of the toxicity of social media in general, I refrained from making any comments on posts with weak arguments and assertions without adequate reasons due to the possibility of being involved in the discourse after expressing a different point of view. Although my comments were always responsive and not reactive, I experienced a few times that even a polite disagreement can ruin fragile online friendships.

Despite my negative experience, I still believe that without asking questions, discussing thoughts and ideas with goodwill, and respectful disagreement, there is no genuine engagement, neither on social media nor in real life. A big lesson in life is learning to deal with situations and views with which we disagree.

While writing this article, one of the maxims by Balthasar Gracián came to my mind. Although published in the 17th century, his pithy statements are still relevant.

The prudent avoid being contradicted as much as contradicting: though they have their censure ready, they are not ready to publish it. […] The wise man, therefore, retires into silence, and if he allows himself to come out of it, he does so in the shade and before few and fit persons.

Would you rather be the wise man Gracián wrote about, who retires into silence and, like Socrates, interact only with few and fit persons, or would you give voice to disagreement?

Silence is not always golden.

Lada Prkić
Lada Prkićhttps://www.bebee.com/@lada-prkic
Lada Prkić is a Civil Engineer and has a lot of professional experience in various fields of Civil Engineering. She works at the University of Split on the capital construction projects at the University Campus and beyond. Besides performing responsible tasks as a Project Manager, and Head of Capital Investment Office, Lada became passionate about blogging. She writes about civil engineering, architecture, geometry, networks on social media, and human relations. Lada lives with her family in Split, Croatia, a beautiful 2,000 years old city on the coast of the Adriatic sea.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Lada,

    I salute the way you have addressed such a potentially sensitive topic. And it’s Latin origin.
    It reminded me of another Latin word: ‘vulgate’. Volgate is a combination of Greek, Hebrew and Latin translated into ‘old latin’ or Vulgate, meaning ‘common’ as is common prayer book. The modern meaning is ‘vulgar’; a totally different interpretation!

    An argument is often used in politics where ‘discussion’ would be more appropriate for the benefit of all. Quite often those of opposing parties have some issues that could be resolved, sometimes a compromise, but most of all for the good of the communities they SERVE, reach a viable conclusion without arguing.
    Thank you Lada for revealing matters we don’t tend to discuss.
    Simon

    • Dear Simon, thank you as always for commenting on my articles. 🙂 Yes, many words that originated in Latin and Greek have totally different interpretations.
      Disagreement is a topic I thought a lot about because there are always things in our life with which we have to disagree. I learned in my work that honest disagreement is more appreciated than a dishonest agreement.
      As for the agreement in politics, it often goes hand in hand with compromising principles advocated by political parties before the election. Common political ground is rarely found without compromising those principles. It’s not that I’m entirely against compromise, but I am more for putting maximum effort into finding common ground.

  2. Lada: Good points. But the fly in the ointment as they say is that it takes two to tango. In this case no matter how hard one tries, or how good their intentions, if the other person is rigid and dogmatic in their position then no amount of effort will make for a constructive and respectful disagreement. I’ve found that the only hope is to keep the other person talking and hope that person will eventually find that their position is untenable. Sometimes, it is best to simply avoid certain volatile topics, particularly with a close friend or relative.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Ken. I couldn’t respond to your comment earlier. Yes, it takes two to tango. When it comes to family members and friends, I don’t refrain from expressing disagreement with another person’s argument because we discuss topics face to face. The text-based only interaction, as on social media, often leads to misconception. The way some people use social media causes degradation of dialogue and can ruin our meaningful personal relationships.

  3. Thanks, Lada.

    We can separate arguing (to reach agreement on the truth) from argufying (to push back and contradict). I’ve been practicing something for some years (I got it from the neutral listening training when I worked as a mediator). When someone is on the opposite side of an issue, but not dogmatically sclerotic (in which case I disengage/throw in a non sequitor), I listen and may ask a clarifying question, but I do not weigh in. That stance demonstrates courage and trust, and, with the exception of someone burdened with sociopathy, they will mirror that. At some point, the other person will always find his/her curiosity replacing her/his talking points and make a space for me. Always! Then I start with, “I suspect you and I see this very differently.”

    No matter how far apart we are, we share more in common than different. Thank god for our differences.

    Be.
    Mac

    • My apologies for the delay. Thank you so much for commenting here, Mac. I’m grateful for the comments on LinkedIn, but commenting directly on the article has a more lasting value.
      In my work, as a construction project manager, I practice almost every day conversing with opinionated, rigid and dogmatic people who think they are always right. 🙂 Many times I have to deal with those people, and disengage from the discussion isn’t an alternative.
      In most cases, I agree with you about our differences, but some people do not justify that claim. 🙂

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