I was going to bring you a list of resources for Whole Food Plant Based Eating today (and don’t worry, I will still do that), but a recent Facebook thread got me going and now I just can’t think about anything else. And although I’m sure trying to avoid controversy on this little old blog of ours, I need to take a minute to discuss a rational approach to disagreement. (Spoiler Alert: BE KIND)
Recently I was drawn into a discussion on a Facebook group. Now we all know that avoiding that rabbit hole is the absolutely best way to go, DO NOT ENGAGE, but sometimes, it’s like a train wreck, you just can’t look away. And then as you stew on what you’ve read, you realize you have a lot to say. And just maybe, your thoughts may help someone else.
The discussion in question was about whether a particular comment made to a woman (by a man) was sexist and/or offensive. The actual comment doesn’t even matter, and to be honest although the context WAS important in this case, the bottom line was that this woman felt offended. The discussion thread was started by a man who was genuinely interested in WHY what he said was perceived so differently than what he had intended (huge kudos to this guy!). There was a lot of disagreement and sadly, this quickly devolved to name calling and insults. Whoa.
People. Let’s take a second to reflect.
First of all, disagreement can occur WITHOUT name calling and insults. And it is OK to agree to disagree.
Second of all, we need to understand that our own experiences may not be everyone’s experiences and that does not make their experiences any less important (or valid).
Third of all, we can’t tell someone else how to feel…even if we don’t feel it ourselves. Even if we don’t understand why they feel it.
What does that mean, exactly?
Well, to me, it means if someone says to you that something is “offensive”, and you disagree, turn off your immediate impulse to disregard, ignore or blatantly reject what they are saying. Choke back words like “overly sensitive”, “snowflake”, and “thin skinned” (they have no place here). Take a minute to reflect on what they are saying. Feel comfortable enough to ask them WHY it was offensive. LISTEN. You may be surprised by the answer. You may still disagree (and remember-disagreement is OK!) but you may have learned something, and if nothing else, you have come that much closer to trying to understand someone else. And you will be respected for that.
And when we know better we DO better.
A personal example
I have a friend who is a truly good person and I know that as fact. She and I are about as far apart on many things as two people can get. She is fairly vocal with ideas that I totally disagree with. That COULD be a huge problem. But instead we have had had some really good conversations and let me tell you how.
Both of us understand that we can agree to disagree. Respectfully. And that discussing why we feel the way we do may lead to some understanding of each other’s position. The goal is not to change each other. And the goal is not to “be right”. Sometimes that has to be enough.
Do I need to bite my tongue sometimes, sure! Does she want to my wring my neck sometimes, sure! But we try to start with the things we agree on. Which honestly are many. We both want to be healthy and happy and safe. We want to be valued and respected. We disagree on how this country should get there, but by starting with what we agree on, we will get much closer to finding good solutions, solutions that can be acceptable to everyone.
So what now?
Participate in the discussion. Be a person who is open to listening to all sides of a disagreement. Don’t assume you know how another person feels or try to tell them how they should feel. Ask why, and be genuine about it. Try to understand all perspectives, not just those which on the surface seem easiest or those that match your own reality the most closely.
Read. I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction books lately and it has been eye-opening. My perspective, coming from a middle class suburban upbringing, is somewhat narrow and I will own that. I have been blessed to be able to afford good childcare for my kids. I have health insurance. I am employed. Many have not had any of that and it is important to recognize my privilege. I have a lot to learn about the reality of others. I have a lot to learn period.
Be careful about believing everything you read. I know, I know. I just told you to read. And I’m sticking to that. But beware that the media is biased. Sensationalism is rampant. Always be wary- there are two sides to every story. The media seems hell bent on seeing us all disagree. Disagreement sells.
Different is not inherently bad. Different gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, politics, etc. just make the world more interesting. Differences aren’t bad, or even good, they are just that, differences.
Stop the “us versus them” rhetoric. Try to see everyone as on the same side (and yes I know, this is SO hard sometimes). Remember that everyone wants the same things out of life when you really get right down to it- safety, security, happiness, freedom. Seek to unify, not to divide. Make tolerance your mantra. Hate has no place here.
Agree to disagree. Sometimes you just aren’t going to agree. That is OK. Stay calm and rational and above all-stay kind. You may not see something the same way as someone else which does not make you right, it does not make them right, it just is. Let it go.
OK, rant over. Thanks for listening.
A few books that may be of interest…
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A Good Time For The Truth: Race in Minnesota by Sun Yung Shin (editor)
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land
Know My Name by Chanel Miller
The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates
Educated by Tara Westover