“We’re right. You’re wrong.” It’s a dangerous mindset that impacts our lives every day. Whether we actually say it out loud or only think it subconsciously, the belief that our ideas and opinions are right, and the other side is wrong has drawn countless proverbial lines in the sand of our society: Democrats and Republicans, religious groups, Millenials and Baby Boomers… the list goes on and on.
For most people, “agreeing to disagree” has become the best solution for groups with different opinions. And while that is certainly better than some of the embarrassing rants and responses we see on social media, what if it’s not enough?
Should We Be Doing More than Agreeing to Disagree?
Could it be that we’re supposed to do more than simply agree to disagree?
A few weeks ago, I ran across this quote from Tim Keller:
“When you listen and read one thinker, you become a clone… two thinkers, you become confused… ten thinkers, you’ll begin developing your own voice… two or three hundred thinkers, you become wise and develop your voice.”
I was convicted immediately. When was the last time I had a meaningful conversation with someone who had different beliefs about a particular subject? How often do I only read articles by people who share my opinion? Why do I write-off a co-worker or boss who doesn’t agree with my opinion rather than considering what I might learn from them?
Why We Should Learn from People With Whom We Don’t Agree
Since reading Keller’s quote, I’ve been intentionally putting myself in a position to try and actually learn from people with different opinions, rather than simply “agreeing to disagree.”
Here are a few things I’ve learned:
1. We identify new and better ideas and strategies.
Too often we hear an idea or opinion of someone we disagree with and dismiss it. We think there is no purpose for this information. However, when we adopt this mindset, we miss the opportunity that could be created by learning in that moment.
As we move forward in society, the people who can connect ideas from seemingly impossible places will create what is common for tomorrow.
The workplace is a great example. Too often, Baby Boomers write off ideas from Millennials as idealistic. Millennials think ideas from older generations are unimaginative. Often, brilliance emerges when we bring together the best pieces of different ideas to create something that doesn’t exist.
2. We gain a deeper understanding of how the world works.
The way that we see the world is limited by our experiences. When we take the time to learn what others have experienced, our breadth of worldview extends further. My story is very small in the context of the broad world, and I want to understand the world in a greater way.
In the pursuit of innovation, the more we know, the more informed creators we become. If I have limited view of the world, this creates a limited view of what I have the potential to create. By learning from others, I will always gain a greater worldview.
3. We set ourselves apart.
The truth is most people do not take the time to keep learning. As we take the time to learn from people with diverse perspectives, we set ourselves apart in a variety of ways.
First, we benefit from the simple act of continuing to grow by continuously learning. But more importantly, our ideas and strategies are more well-rounded because of the diverse backgrounds from which we’ve learned. This well-rounded view is an instant benefit in any marketplace you find yourself.
I believe that we can learn something from everyone. Regardless of a philosophical approach, political view, ideology, theology, strategy, passion or purpose in pursuit…I can still learn something from others. They may be younger, they may be older, they may be less educated or more thoughtful – we have the opportunity to take one new thought away from every person we meet.
When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with someone with different beliefs?
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A Rant on Agreeing to Disagree (and Learning from Each Other)
Thanks, Alli! I think we all have “one of those” family members.
Great quote from Tim Keller! We have to be willing to listen and to be open to understanding. I had a family memeber who was so far to the left, that when we tried to talk to her about, well, anything, she would get angry and defensive. I didn’t want to prove her wrong, I wanted to understand her perspective. She was so busy being right that she missed an opportunity (over and over) to engage, discuss, debate and share some ahas. When we’re sure we’re right and we already have our voice, it should not mean that we then close our ears.