You don’t have to agree with people to love them, as conflict can lead to much stronger relationships. Think about everyone you ever loved and everyone you were ever close to. Most importantly, think about people who invested in your life in a positive and meaningful way. Now narrow it down to just one person. For instance, a spouse, a parent, a sibling, and a best friend from childhood.
Firstly, picture them in your mind. Did you start to smile? Keep that person in mind and ask yourself this pivotal question. “Do I agree with everything this person thinks, says, or does?” Sadly, the answer is no. You may love that person much more because you disagreed with them at some point along the road. Likewise, you worked through your differences.
Disagreeing and loving someone well aren’t inherently two different things. It’s quite possible to disagree with someone and still love them deeply. However, the narrative in our culture at large would seem to claim the opposite. It’s now much more common in public opinions to view agreement or disagreement as synonyms. In other words, to love and hate, respectively. “If you agree with me, you love me.”
It also works vice versa. It’s risky if we begin to buy into this link between hating those we disagree with. We run the risk of losing many important elements of human dignity. For example, the ability to hold an opinion, disagree respectfully, and still love someone. Similarly, most of us understand that disagreements are a part of life. While we may not like them, we learn to deal with them. Where that logic breaks down is when we start to perceive disagreeing as devaluing.
“We can disagree and still love each other, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression.”
Ways conflict is great for a relationship
Believe it or not, contrary to our immediate reaction, a disagreement isn’t always a bad sign. Psychology Today looked into the science of conflict during relationships, though what they discovered was fairly counter-intuitive. If you look at conflict from this perspective, arguments are positive. In fact, they can actually be great for a relationship. They’re the primary vehicle by which we can improve our relationships.
Are you utterly unhappy with something your partner does or doesn’t do? Only by confronting them can you give yourself a chance to make your needs understood. When people confront or disagree, they don’t mean to use this tool to disvalue them. On the other hand, many people used disagreements for this purpose. The goal of most disagreements is to make people feel understood.
“Armed with that information, partners can then make the appropriate adjustments in their relationship. This way, they can truly fulfill these needs.” Try confronting leads to perfectly adjust your behavior. If we’re unwilling to disagree, then what’s the impetus for our adjustments?
In a world devoid of conflict, what need is there for anyone to change? “Arguments also make partners come together as a couple, letting them fix their problems as a couple. If they succeed at it, it can make them feel more bonded to each other.” When someone disagrees with you, it never feels good.
The natural response to disagreement is to jump to the defensive, assume the worst, and counter in anger, frustration, or confusion. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can make a change in how you respond to disagreement and begin to love well with three steps: understand, create, and act.
Understand that people are more than their opinions
Imagine that every child in the world grew up to be the professional they aspired to be in the first grade. There would be many firefighters, astronauts, and professional athletes. Instead, as most children grow up, their desires shift dramatically. Therefore, their circumstances lead them towards new aspirations and goals.
Many things mold and shape us now. For example, our surroundings, experiences, and values. From these influences, you create ideas and beliefs about the world and the people around you that you test and continue to adapt over time. Those ideals are closer to the surface. Most importantly, they aren’t as deep as our own opinions.
Thousands of circumstances and past experiences lead each of us towards our opinions. In fact, there are some well-informed opinions, backed by a lot of thought and research. However, we don’t even know we have some opinions until someone asks.
Most of our opinions come down to our preferences. On the other hand, preferences shift over time. What does this mean exactly? In most situations, it’s a helpful practice to remember that preferences aren’t set in stone. You don’t have to agree with everyone’s preferences. But doesn’t mean you have to hate who they are as a person or refuse to hear their preferences.
Agree to disagree
Disagreeing and resolving conflict can actually be a healthy step for relationships. Therefore, it’s important to get in the habit of agreeing to disagree. Disagreeing is like hot sauce. It adds some spice and makes a relationship much better. But too much can make your stomach hurt.
Leaving a margin for disagreement means that you give people selective opportunities to be real and vulnerable with you. You ask for feedback while checking to make sure that you actually know how someone truly feels. Thus, don’t just assume you know everything. Leaving a margin for disagreement is like saying the phrase “What do you think?”
The idea is to say it frequently enough that the people around you feel safe to speak up. Not so much so that you don’t know how to think on your own.
Remember that a healthier and more holistic version of yourself leads to healthier interactions with everyone around you.
“Make trust and forgiveness your default mode If and when they have a disagreement or argument, and if they can’t resolve it, happy couples default to trusting. And forgiving rather than distrusting or begrudging.”
Listen well and love anyways
Are you disagreeing with someone? That doesn’t automatically give you the right not to listen to them. Because you disagree with them, you may need to consider listening to them even more. Too often, people stop listening to those around them. It’s very easy to fall into this. It’s as if you were saying “If I don’t like what you’re saying, I just won’t listen”.
The idea is to disagree well and see the benefit of good conflict management. This strategy can be highly beneficial in your relationships. Unfortunately, you may want to consider starting with listening well. Few things on Earth are completely set in stone. There’s rarely a negative trade-off to practicing the skill of good listening. Responding to a disagreement by listening well is a great place to start.
Once you listen well, choose to take the next step and love anyway. When you listen well, there’s still a chance you won’t like what you hear. That’s normal. When this happens, it’s important to perfectly remember the next step. Listen well and disagree as needed, but love anyway.
More tips to talking to people you don’t agree with
Fortunately, there are ways to cope with interpersonal strains. Check out these five tips:
- Try to find common ground you can agree on. It may seem impossible at the time to acknowledge the validity of someone else’s argument. Adults should be able to appreciate the gray between the black and white of their viewpoints.
- Don’t drag others into the ugly debate. Stay focused on yourself and whomever you have a disagreement with. Trying to form coalitions or sides will only escalate bad feelings.
- Avoid personal insults. It probably goes without saying that you should be respectful. There’s no reason to start attacking someone.
- Keep a sense of humor. Even when you discuss serious differences of opinion, try to find ways to maintain your perspective. See if there are humorous aspects to your diversity of opinions. Allow others to balance out the negative.
- Try to change the person’s mind but don’t persist if it isn’t working. Once you get past a certain point, nothing you say will matter. It’s best to move on and talk about your shared interests and views.
Are you ready to change the world?
These points are meant to be taken in the context of what most of us would consider “normal” situations. Many types of disagreements happen every day. For instance, some aren’t dangerous, life-threatening, or harmful.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where a dangerous disagreement was taking place? We don’t advocate for you to “love anyway” in these cases.
We believe that, for the more normal situations in life, it’s helpful to remember that you don’t always have to agree with someone to love them well. If everyone practiced this, we could change the world!
Emotional Distance in a Relationship