Disagree with Dignity and Respect
By Gregory Bryant, Esq/CPA
I recently got into a text discussion with a former client and colleague. He is a brilliant radiologist and was posing the question, “Why don’t people follow the science and get vaccinated….?”, to which he then explained why the science says that makes sense. His explanation was very clear and convincing. But, I thought I would venture an attempt to answer his question.
The problem is that science has lost a lot of credibility by (1) contradicting itself a lot and (2) changing its recommendations from day-to-day and week-to-week. Scientific “experts” were contradicting scientific “experts” and then they would flip positions the next day.
Well from my reply, we engaged in a long debate.
What I realized from our debate is that we could disagree with dignity and mutual respect. It was a dignified, respectful debate. And from this debate, we both learned to see the issue from a different perspective. I better understand his frustration as a medical doctor seeing people take unreasonable risks and he, maybe, better understands why they are.
From this, I am reminded of the cartoon where 2 people are standing over a number. From one side, it looks like a 6 and from the opposite side, it looks like a 9. The point is: “Just because I am right does not mean you are wrong.” Depending on which side of the number you stand, it is a 6 or a 9. They are both right.
When I was in college, I had a good friend, David, who was a far left-wing Democrat and strong supporter of Jimmy Carter. I was a Reagan Republican. He was a 52 Vietnam veteran and I was a 19-year-old college kid. He lived 2 doors up from me. At least once a week we would play chess and debate politics until the wee hours of the morning. We never agreed, but we had fantastic debates. And, the next day, I felt compelled to not only improve my chess game but to tighten up on current events on issues I cared about. He galvanized me to work harder and become better.
We both learned from our debates. We both exercised our minds. We disagreed with dignity and mutual respect.
The art of disagreeing with respect and dignity needs to return. It was here 40 years ago, but somewhere along the road, it went away. We lost it to political correctness and wonkish behavior. We lost it to intellectual laziness. We need it back. I am tired of people labeling, screaming, and running when they don’t have a good response to a question or if they disagree with someone. We can disagree with respect and dignity too.
How do we do this?
- Stop believing that if you are right then the other person is wrong. Maybe you are both right, depending on your perspective.
- Learn to listen. When you talk, you don’t learn anything. Listen more.
- Try to rephrase statements into questions. You can disagree without being confrontational.
- It is OK to say “I don’t know” if you don’t. Nobody will dislike you for it. It is also fine to say nothing if you have nothing to say. Too often, people get mad or defensive if they are confronted with a question that they are not able to answer. Get over it.
- If the other person disagrees with you, that is OK too. Sometimes people will not see things the same way you do.
- Don’t ever cite “they say” as your authority for a position. If you don’t know who you’re relying on, you’re making it up.
- Start with kindness. Understand that everyone is struggling to get by too, so give them a break.