An argument vs. a disagreeable person
In fact, disagreement fuels innovation and forces creation, and the secret art gives you courage to be different and rile people up.
Do you want to fight me on this first point?
Good. You should. Your disagreement might provoke me to see new insights. Along with other things, disagreement engages critical thinking skills.
I am not upset when someone disagrees with me, but I am worried when people take in everything I say without questioning. As bloggers, discontent and disagreement are an essential part of of our purpose and a useful writing tool.
To be healthy, disagreement must:
- Arise from critical thinking and questioning.
- Be based in reason, logic, and experience.
- Battle consensus and group thinking.
- Push against the opposition in positive, constructive ways.
- Steer a course away from ignorance, deception, and complacency.
- Question its own veracity by being open to other ideas.
Your disagreement gains more power if you use it sparingly, only when needed. Disagreeable people are always in disagreement, refusing to collaborate or negotiate. They determine that their point of view is the only correct one.
The skeptical blogger who disagrees with the norm or consensus can push towards innovation and change, forcing others to see the flaws in collective reasoning.
At this time of year, I think of Dicken's Scrooge as the essence of a disagreeable person, one who is selfish and self-serving all the time, rather than arguing on occasions when people need to be forced to see another side of the problem. Scrooge lives to be in opposition of others, but later is forced to see the common good.
Disagreement is a powerful American tradition
Thomas Paine, the pamphleteer who helped to rally discontent in the colonies prior to the Revolutionary War, is a great example of healthy disagreement. His rationale was forward thinking.
Looking to the future, Paine said "If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace." This is healthy disagreement that works through difficulties today rather than putting it off and create further damage in the future.
However, when a humble person disagrees among his friends and colleagues, he or she can be recognized as the force of reason and change. The difference is in the frequency and purpose of the disagreement.
If one is always engaging in battle, he is at risk of being seen as a disagreeable person. Disagreeable people are eventually dismissed and seen as foolish.
If a person uses judgement in deciding when to disagree, she can pull the tribe back from the brink of a bad decision. Disagreement provokes anger and hatred, but sometimes it spawns thought. Eric Hoffer, an American social philosopher, adds:
The beginning of thought is in disagreement - not only with others but also with ourselves.
- Starting with the questioning of your own beliefs and opinions. Before you launch out with an attack, double check and doubt your own point of view. This will prevent you from looking silly.
- Reviewing the news, media, and writing of others with a critical eye, always hunting for flaws in logic and reasoning. Rather than absorbing everything you see and hear like a sponge, become a filter, always on the lookout for problems, flaws, and errors.
- Doubting the view of the consensus, media, and other bloggers - a thing is not necessarily valid just because the majority believe it. It requires self-confidence and courage to doubt in the face of overwhelming opposition, but a society needs discontent in order to progress.
- Writing with tact, logic, clarity, and passion. If you are going to challenge the dominant position, you must remember that the burden is on you to persuade your audience. Logic, reason, and evidence are more valid than passion and opinion. Be ready to support and defend your position.
- Being willing to alter your view to negotiate a consensus when necessary. Throughout the process, you must be open to the possibility that you are wrong or only partially right. Sometimes the best answer is to bend a little to arrive at unanimity. On the other hand, sometimes you must have the courage to fight it out until the end.
- Putting your reputation on the line. You cannot blog from a position of fear because people will not respect you or be interested in your work. They can smell the fear. When you are sure you are in the right, proceed with determination, your eyes focused on the need for change. Readers will value your dissent.
- Disagreeing artfully, in a way that engages and persuades readers. It's easy to disagree, but there is an art in disagreeing with authority, so that others are forced to question there beliefs.
I do not suggest here that you must be always oppositional, but when the right moment arises you must have the courage to take a stand on the side of reason and skepticism, fighting for what you see to be valid. In doing so, you can be a force for change, and as Mahatma Gandhi said, "Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress." Have the courage to be a part of progress and innovation.
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