Agreeing to Disagree: How Facts and Beliefs Color Conversation
Disagreements happen. Anytime you have known someone for a long period of time, there is bound to be some dissent of opinion that pops up. Even your closest loved one, friend or family member will likely not see eye to eye with you on certain issues.
Over time, we all reveal our passions, biases, beliefs and thoughts. In all of these situations, it will be imperative for you to understand the differences between belief and fact. This way, disagreements can be dealt with in a logical, kind way and will not be subject to the pettiness that affects so many people.
Facts are finite statements that can be researched and supported with evidence. People may not like a certain fact, but it is hard to disagree with one on any non-emotional basis. For example, if your spouse said you forgot to pay a bill but you have the receipt handy, an argument will likely not happen. It’s a fact that you paid that bill, why fight about it?
Nonetheless, try not to harp too heavily on unimportant facts; they are not of much use to us if we can’t put them in context and give them a real life meaning. Simply stating the same fact over and over again, for example, won’t make you look very good and has the potential to start a petty argument.
In the example of paying the bills, your spouse might say, “you never pay the bills!” Your first temptation will be to argue his or her inaccurate “never” claim. Let that one go and try to understand what your spouse is trying to communicate. While I am sure you have paid the bills at least once, calmly validate what is true, try to understand what your spouse means, even if their argument is not totally accurate. Admit where you have missed the mark. This will make avoiding a fight that much easier.
Beliefs are personal
Beliefs are based on morals, personal faith and our family of origin. There are certain issues you can think in your head and know in your heart to be true that cannot be verified, but that is OK too. However, you must be sure to remember that not everyone agrees with the beliefs you hold.
As a silly but true example, people often have a very strong opinion about Christmas. I will have one spouse say we should open presents on Christmas Eve (because that is what their family did). Then the other spouse will argue why that is totally wrong. Newly married couples argue about simple things like this all of the time. We go into marriage assuming our spouse will have the same beliefs as us because everyone must believe that gifts should only be opened on Christmas day, but this is often not the case and it takes people off guard.
Some of the strongest relationships are held together by a couple’s ability to disagree with grace and have real conversations about their passions and convictions. Every person is going to have their own opinion about facts and beliefs; it is less the fact, opinion and belief itself that will cause an argument and more how each one respects their partner’s thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, agreeing to disagree is the best route to take.
A common example in marriage is arguing styles. One person feels that forgiving and forgetting is the best policy and the other believes that hashing it out is for the best. However, the correct answer is somewhere in-between. Both people probably got their beliefs from their family of origin. If that is how they did it as a kid, it must be correct. This is one of the most common arguments we hear about at Stenzel Clinical. Each spouse arguing how his or her arguing style is best is futile.
Whether talking with a spouse, friend, family member or a complete stranger, always remember that everyone has facts, beliefs and opinions they hold close to them. Respect this and you will get respect back.