Disagreements and arguments are hard to avoid

March 6, 2022

Hopefully, disagreements and arguments occur on rare occasions, but they do occur, and when either or both happen, we are at odds as to why, and how to resolve them. I suspect that one precedes the other, and it is often difficult to avoid either or both. The source of this human phenomenon is that we all have an opinion about something or another, and hold that opinion as close as our childhood teddy bear. Let me allow you to conjure forth into your consciousness some tidbit which is important to you and about which you hold firm. There is undoubtedly someone you know (and even love) who does not share your zeal or affirmation. Despite efforts to the contrary, somehow the particular topic arises, and pop goes the weasel, or pop, we have a disagreement.

It is not peculiar that the other party is as serious about their point of view as we are about ours. Thus, through no true fault of either party, a disagreement ensues, and we are at odds one with the other. The result of such an impassioned disagreement is usually an argument. There are several escape routes from the argument, the simplest of which is avoiding the disagreement. Depending upon how firmly we hold to the theory or belief, it is extremely difficult to either back off from our point of view or grant credence to the other opinion. For some reason we feel a need to persuade our self-made adversary, “I am right, and you are wrong.” We become enveloped with the need to be on top of this situation by maintaining our position. We rarely ever believe that perhaps the opposing viewpoint has viability, or that we should listen a little more closely to the other side. The result of such an impasse is an argument.

The argument part of this bookend is when it becomes interesting. There are those of us who really enjoy a good argument, or what the optimists call a discussion. And then there are those who lack proper argumentative skills and fall prey to the danger of the outcome of an argument, the fight. However, let us not go there, and stick to the boundary of the argument stage. Clearly both parties have abandoned the escape option and prefer to deal with the issue head-on. Being part of an argument requires some very special skills, one of which is that rare find of total self-security. The hidden ingredient is that both competing humans must be (or at least feel) secure. As the argument travels through its see-saw phases, both combatants (not truly the most accurate noun), must at least attempt to remain civil one with the other to avoid the escalation to the next level which we just mentioned.

It seems to this writer that the qualities of “kinder and gentler” need to enter into the fray. The argument need not become vile or nasty or defensive, but remain at the level where both points of view are respected. We realize that such is difficult; after all, we are all human beings with the frailties inherent therein. How do we disagree without being disagreeable, and how do we argue without being argumentative? The secret may be in the acceptance on both sides of at least part of the differing opinion, whatever the topic.

Difficult as it may be, we need to make every attempt, given the limitations of our humanity, to escape from what was initially a disagreement which transfixed itself into an argument. We indeed traded a headache for an upset stomach, as once penned and aired by an advertising agency. As people, we shall always have opinions which differ from the opinions of others, and we are usually not shy about voicing said thoughts. We do have control over the extent to which we allow our opinions to take us. Let us constantly maintain our attempts to allow reason to enter into disagreement and argumentation, thus resulting in healthy debate and discussion. As a species, we clearly need to exchange ideas for all of us to grow and expand and improve. We can surely do this without ever losing sight of our individuality, perception and insight, and hopefully without severe argumentation and its negative results.

  • Peter E. Carter is a former public school administrator who has served communities in three states as a principal, and district and county superintendent, for 35-plus years. He is a board member for Delaware Botanic Gardens and Cape Henlopen Educational Foundation, and the author of a dual autobiography, “A Black First…the Blackness Continues.”

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