How to Be Civil To Someone With Whom You Disagree

There has been so much dissension in my country (U.S.A) lately, especially when people talk about politics or something they are passionate about.  I’m sure the same is true in other countries as well.  This can be seen most evidently on social media platforms, where people feel that they can say whatever they want, with no filters whatsoever.  The negative political advertisements do us no favors either as far as the dissension problem is concerned.

This past Sunday at church, we were a having question and answer discussion to find out about the pastoral candidate (My current pastor is leaving. He has been at the church for over 40 years!), and the candidate made this wise statement that we all should learn to heed (paraphrased-emphasis mine): Even if I don’t agree with you on everything, I agree to disagree. 

I understand that it can be difficult to be civil to someone who vehemently disagrees with something you are passionate about.  I know, because when I was younger, I used to be combative against people who mocked or disagreed with that which I was passionate about. However, I have learned these following things about how we all can be civil to those whom we disagree:

  1. Remember the inherent value of the person whom you disagree with is not dependent on what they believe.—Society has perpetuated the lie that your worth is dependent on what you do or what you believe.  This has resulted in attacks and dissensions over the most trivial things!  However, if we remembered that the person who disagrees with us is still someone with a family and with a life, we would probably be more respectful and compassionate in relating with them.  Yes, beliefs and ideas DO have consequences, especially when they translate into actions, but attacking a person’s character based on what they believe will not get them to change their opinions or their convictions. In fact, it will often make the person hold on to their beliefs even tighter and your contrasting beliefs something to be mocked by them simply because they now equate what you believe with how you acted towards them!
  2. Find common ground—Yes, the person whom you disagree with may have a different way of thinking than you, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find similarities in your beliefs or goals with them. For instance, both Republicans and Democrats want to better their society in which they live in, but they may go about it in different ways.  Also, regardless of religious belief or philosophy of life, the common ground one can find with one who disagrees with them is that they both want to better their lives, and, most likely, those of others.  Finding common ground will not only deescalate any potential arguments you may have with the person who disagrees with you, but may also serve to unite you with them in some way.
  3. Never attack the other person’s character, but focus on much as possible on why you disagree.—When you attack the person whom you disagree with, instead on focusing instead on the issue or issues which you differ, you have already lost their respect and listening ears.  Yes, I understand that debates and disagreements can get heated, but when we attack someone’s character or who they are inherently, we not only lose our own sense of integrity and respect, but we devalue their inherent worth as human being as well.
  4. Find out why they believe as they do.—Instead of coming across as combative and argumentative, ask questions. Find out why they believe as they do. For instance, a person may have certain views because of what they have experienced in life, both good and bad. For instance, if you find out a person doesn’t drink because he or she has seen the negative effects of alcohol in their family, you can better understand where they are coming from when they want the legal age to buy alcohol to be raised even higher. Sometimes people believe the way they do because of what others have told them, or misconceptions they had picked out along the way. If you find out they believe  a misconception of your view, you can respectfully and lovingly clear that up with the truth.

These are some of the things that I have learned to do in being civil with another person whom I disagree. So, when you voice your opinions and come across someone that doesn’t think as you do, whether it be on social media or in person, remember the value of the person is not based on what they believe; find common ground; never attack the person’s character, and find out why they believe as they do.  Finally, if all else fails, you should strive to just agree to disagree. However, if we more consistently applied these principles, this world would be a much more peaceful and unifying place.

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19 thoughts on “How to Be Civil To Someone With Whom You Disagree

  1. this is all such wonderful advice Patricia – and the timing is actually perfect for me to be seeing this on election day where there is so much negativity & discord – especially on social media

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  2. This is all so true! Even if you disagree with another person’s opinion or perspective, it is so important to disagree respectfully and “agree to disagree.” I think this is really important to teach children, as well as practicing as adults. This is especially important when discussing politics. Thank you, Patricia! This was insightful!

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    1. I think you are very right. I wish more politicians would disagree more respectfully. Thankfully the elections are over, and no more negative political ads for awhile!

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  3. People aren’t going to have the same beliefs and opinions. But, people need to have respect for each other. Somehow we have lost the ability to see beyond the differences and actually have a conversation- I don’t need to change your mind but you can listen with respect

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  4. great tips – all of them..
    as a parent to a teen and a tween, we are definitely running into situations where we have different opinions, and whenever i talk to my kids about mistakes committed or these differences in opinions, i let them know that it is not a reflection on them but focus on the specific action they did and why

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    1. I think you are a good parent, who is also striving to teach them understanding and kindness-two qualities that are often lacking in this world.

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  5. I completely agree with you. These were some really great tips. There is so much negativity around me currently, so I’m getting to read this at the right time 🙂

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  6. I do find it difficult to really discuss any topic with some people nowadays. You can make you point about something and can say it one way and someone can take it in a bad way.

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  7. There have Ben X Gwen just saying okay, agreed to disagree has not been enough. Sometimes I’m like okay I don’t agree but let’s agree that we’re not going to agree and leave it at that before a fight breaks out and it seems like most people these days want an actual fight.its puzzling! Best wishes to your church and pastor!

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  8. Unfortunately in today’s climate, this post is necessary and probably should be required before social media use. I see so much hate online and in comment sections everywhere. It’s sickening!

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