These are intense times we’re living through and disagreeing with friends and family is becoming a bigger part of our landscape. You used to more or less be able to decide when you wanted to wade into a potentially heated conversation. Now you can stumble into them multiple times a day, even within circles of folks where you felt like you saw most things in the same way. For these reasons, we must evaluate, what’s the ‘better person thing to do’ when it comes to disagreeing with friends and family?
Listen to the Podcast Here:
Confronting Heated Topics
Once upon a time, the major thing we had to disagree on was politics. The division between Democrat and Republican felt very wide, but you knew where the boundaries were and they were fairly easy to navigate. You knew who in your life voted differently than you did and for the most part you could avoid the landmines.
Now, in the age of the corona, there are so many new things to disagree on. Things that don’t follow party lines. That could be whether to open schools, wear masks, or even inviting someone over to your house for a socially distanced glass of wine can raise eyebrows. Heck, I got yelled at in the grocery store for going the wrong way down a newly one-way aisle!
There’s also the Black Lives Matter movement which is turning all things racism related into daily fodder for conversation. Which is good. Wonderfully, vitally, powerfully good and our best hope of creating a society that is equitable for all. But it is also fraught and can really rattle your cage; whether you’re white or black.
Disagreeing with Friends and Family:
The thing is, we used to yell at each other primarily when we were in the bubble of our own car. Or even from our own computer screen if we were getting into it with someone on social media. Road rage and nasty comments are still with us, but they’re getting louder and even more common. And now it’s spilling into our everyday, real-world lives, too and we’re disagreeing with friends and family more often.
I say all this as a highly conflict-averse person. I am not a provocateur by any means. I used to chalk it up to being the only child of divorced parents. If I told my Dad something that happened with Mom, or vice versa, I felt like the other invariably got upset. (This was the 70s, well before the friendly divorce was a thing). And so I got really good at keeping the peace. But then I went and had two children, and saw how innate this is. My daughter, at least with us, will run headlong into a disagreement. However, my son will throw a blanket over his head and you can almost see him trying to will himself to disappear.
Even as skilled as I’ve gotten at steering away from subjects that might be remotely upsetting, it’s impossible now. There are some good things about how volatile things are feeling now. Stuff is coming to the surface and only what’s been revealed can be healed. But it also means you have be prepared for tense, even heated interactions on the regular. And these run-ins can derail your focus and give you yet another stressor to recuperate from.
So this week, I want to look at confrontation through the lens of being a better person. Is it better to try to keep harmony within families or relationships and overlook the areas where you disagree? Or are we past that, and do we have a moral obligation to talk to the people we know and love about the things we disagree on in hopes of raising our collective consciousness?
I don’t have the answers worked out in my head. I’m going to be exploring it right along with you (and I’ll be consulting an expert in having difficult conversations later in the week). But I do have some basic better person principles we can apply in any conversation that we’ll cover, like letting go of the need to be right, embracing your influence, and looking for the places where you agree.
Connect With Me On My Socials:
I’d love to hear about one thing you’ve recently had a disagreement with someone about. Was it something in the news? Something related to the coronavirus? Or a kerfuffle over Aunt Jemima? I’ll ask this question on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, in both places I am katewhanley–or you can email me by using the Contact Kate button which is at the very bottom of the page at beabetterpersonpodcast.com. Let’s figure out how to do better with these conversations, together. And if you think you’ve got a pretty helpful way to deal with these confrontations, I’d love to hear that too.