by Alexandra Gillespie, LiveGirl High School Mentor
It’s especially important in today’s world that we listen to understand and realize that it’s okay to agree to disagree.
Disagreeing has this terrible connotation, that somehow challenging someone’s beliefs automatically destroys relationships. Girls especially seem so scared to anger eachother that they never express an opinion or have a really good discussion that comes from two different points of view. This is a shame because so many of us have brilliant ideas worth sharing. When I was younger, I didn’t often engage in any controversial conversation because I was scared of hurting someone’s feelings. In my later years of middle school, I was lucky enough to find a group of friends (all of whom are involved with LiveGirl) that challenged me to think about my point of view and defend it. I realized that respectful debate is one of the best ways to figure out how you feel about something. Listening to other ideas and having people challenge your beliefs makes you a better thinker, a better listener, and a better friend.
My friends and I all come from very different backgrounds and grew up in different places before eventually moving here. Our ranging experiences give us different opinions on everything and make us unique. I wouldn’t trade my friends for the world not only because they’re always there to support me but also because they aren’t afraid to disagree with me. When they challenge me, it forces me to stand up for myself. If I’m able to defend my point, then clearly it’s something I’m passionate about and is worth sharing with the people I love. If not, then maybe it isn’t important to me and I need to reconsider my stance on the topic with the guidance of those closest to me. The entire process of the discussion is just to figure out who you are and who want to be. For example, whenever my parents and I disagree, I realize they do so because they care enough about me to be sure I develop my own ideas. In the long run, this will make me into my own unique person instead of a mirror image of the world around me.
Even though disagreeing is a highly underrated skill, its reputation might make some people a little scared at first. Make sure the people you disagree with know you’re doing it out of respect for their ideas and not disrespect for their authority. There are several things to be mindful of, ranging from word choice to temper control. Obviously, it’s important not to scream and yell at one another when disagreeing. This is simply not productive and often hurts feelings. Instead, use a light tone and make sure that the other person knows you are only disagreeing with their idea and not them personally . If you can tell they don’t like that you’re challenging them, back off a little. If they are uncomfortable, you have to be mindful and respectful of this.
Remember, too, that this is two way street. If you are brave enough to disagree with others, then they will likely force you to stand up for yourself. It is equally important to know that they aren’t attacking you personally. Be proud of your beliefs and don’t shy away from defending them, but listen to other people. I have, on multiple occasions, been so moved by another point of view that I switch my own position. If it turns out that you and your friend or family member don’t agree, that’s totally fine. Agreeing to disagree is perhaps the highest level of maturity someone can reach. It’s not easy, but it will help with every relationship you will ever be in.
Every single person regardless of age, gender, or race has something to offer in a conversation. This includes you. If there is something you’re proud of or feel passionately about, don’t be afraid to share it, especially with the people closest to you. I know I’m lucky to have such amazing friends and family that want to challenge me, so I encourage you to surround yourself with people who will do the same. Middle school and high school are about finding your voice. They’re about discovering who and what you can be. They’re about opening yourself up to the world and letting it open up to you. Listening, learning, and standing up for yourself will make you a more well-rounded person. In a world where extremism dominates headlines and plagues everything from our towns to the whole country, it’s important to figure out where we stand and to respect the ideas of others. Disagreeing doesn’t require conflict, it requires confidence and contemplation. We are the future of the world and we are going to do a great job running it with the help of conversation. We don’t always have to agree, but we do have to be respectful.