Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Little Bit About Disagreements

Well this blog thing has taken me a little bit of time to get used to.  I had hoped to have posts every couple of weeks, not every couple of months.

But that is besides the point.  Recently I have gotten into a few discussions with some friends, and they really managed to drive home the nature of disagreements.

I like to think of myself as a student of human nature.  It may be something of a grandiose claim, but at least that is my goal.  So when I have an argument with someone, I usually try analyze what underlying differences bubbled up to cause the disagreement.  What aspects of the discussion worked, and what didn't.  Sometimes I get more out of these reflections than other times. 

A lot of this ground has already been tread before.  After all this is the internet, and truly there is nothing new under the sun.  However, I think it's useful to add my two cents.  Why exactly may be the subject of another post. 

So back in grad school I had a little extra time on my hands (don't my why or how that happened), and so I found a small group of friends on facebook who had radically different views on religion than I did.  Technically, this group formed kind of organically, but regardless I soon found myself engaging in some highly charged debates on social issues.

Now realistically there is no reason to debate social issues on facebook.  You will never win a argument about politics, religion, or another person's spouse so why even try.  To be honest I'm not quite sure why I did either.  But I do know why I stayed.

I stayed because there were a few debaters who could remain relatively civil, and still discuss these hot button issues.  I'd like to say I was civil all the time, but I do know that I had my fair share of sarcasm.  From those civil debaters I learned a little bit of how the other side thinks.

Issues that were complex like abortion suddenly seemed to be about other more vague issues like sexuality.  Concepts of authority more dealt with issues of truth and faith.  The reason debates don't work is that the disagreement is often coming from many different underlying disagreements.  I kept debating, because over time I got a better view of these underlying disagreements.

One of the first steps in conflict resolution is to identify common values and ideals.  There are a lot of reasons to that, but the biggest one that I have seen time and time again is that people have a habit of debating from two completely different worldviews.  It is hard to decide on a color scheme when one of you thinks that blue is pink, and the other one thinks that green is the devil.

Now over time I have gotten less and less free time on my hands.  I have fewer debates that I can freely engage in.  So as a result I don't dive into debates any more unless I have a very narrow point to get across.  I have switched from debate infantry to a debate sniper.

On my own pages I have gotten to a point where I usually mirror the other commenter.  If they disagree, but seem open to discussions I usually begin by sorting out the facts and finding common ground.  If the disagree and are truly disagreeable about that fact, then some sarcastic comments peppered with my own opinion is about all I give.

The people who disagree, are unwilling to discuss the nature of that disagreement, won't budge a bit, and are rude in the process are known as trolls.  And you don't feed trolls.  If you do feed happen them, you only give them short bursts of sarcasm for your own self-aggrandizement.  Don't fool yourself, your never going to convince them, and you are not going to grow yourself.  In fact you are likely to only make yourself look bad and waste your afternoon doing it. 

My hope, and my end goal, is that debates with me are a spreading common ground done through the use of facts that drives down to deeper differences.  I believe I have gotten quite good at that when I'm not riled up.  Which is why you really shouldn't disagree with someone when riled up...nothing good can come of it.

If you've made it this far in my unbelievably long post, and disagree with anything I've said you can piss off do so civilly in the comments section.