Sometimes it’s actually good to disagree, don’t you agree?

PUBLISHED: 17:39 02 April 2019 | UPDATED: 17:39 02 April 2019

Sometimes it feels good to get your point across, says James Marston

Sometimes it feels good to get your point across, says James Marston

©Vasita Bumroongwong

Everyone loves to moan - but James Marston says this isn’t always a bad thing - and sometimes a good rant or argument can actually be healthy

Have you noticed how everyone has got so much to say these days?

The other week I was in a meeting and by the time we finished I feared it might be daylight outside – like after a night in a casino.

The reason was, of course, no one would stop talking. Committees and meetings 
perhaps attract the types of 
people that like the final word but I’ve noticed that on these occasions that these days everyone has to have their say. In fact if they don’t then it’s somehow wrong even if they are only repeating or making the same point as the person before.

It’s as if a decision can’t be made until everyone’s point of view has been considered. It is, of course, exhausting as no one really listens to one another, points are repeated ad nauseam and these meetings take forever. Indeed, the moment someone disagrees with you or has a different view to you or you express your point with some passion one is quickly accused of being confrontational or abusive. Feelings all too quickly come 
into it.

On the national scene compromise means coming around to someone else’s way of thinking, red lines are demanded in advance thwarting the possibility of any negotiation or compromise before one even starts.

I’ve said before that I feel great sympathy for Theresa May – I don’t think I’m alone in this respect either – but I’m not surprised she has come into difficulty as everyone has backed themselves into a corner of immovable conviction and astonishing levels of self-belief.

All that aside, this inability to listen to one another, the “you do you” approach to life, the insatiable demand for instant gratification and solutions, the impatience of so many of us seem to exhibit in our lives, seems to me a problem that won’t go away.

I recently fell out with a friend. This is unusual for me, and probably is so for her. But we find ourselves in positions where neither is prepared to back down, neither able to apply rational thought, neither able to hear the other. I am right and so is she; I am wrong and so is she. The issue of why we fell out has been forgotten in a melee of accusation, counter-argument, and feelings are running high. It is of course utterly ridiculous. Though I’m right….

However, there’s no rule that to disagree means also to fall out. Disagreement is, in fact healthy, the machinations of parliament might be annoying at the moment, and even seem childish, but those debates should not be so quickly dismissed. It wasn’t so many years ago that many commentators were concerned that parliament was bypassed entirely and had lost its voice – it hasn’t.

I’ve always found it slightly amusing when people say parliament is childish and adversarial and people don’t listen, as parliament reflects exactly how we behave with each other and holds a mirror up to ourselves. By moaning about our politicians we are moaning about how we, ourselves, behave, though it might be difficult to admit.

Furthermore, disagreement need not be such a bad thing, on the contrary if no one pulled us up on our behaviour, or pointed out ourselves to ourselves we would never develop or grow up. Disagreement can, paradoxically, be a unifying force in which listening to one another can deepen friendships, develop relationships and grow relationships. Disagreement does not mean division and to keep suggesting the two are inextricably linked is deeply damaging and, I think, wrong.

To engage with the current narrative of deep societal division pedalled by so many commentators is something I am reluctant to do, because to engage is to validate the definition that disagreement itself is divisive. Saying we are divided leads to believing we are divided and believing we are divided validates division.

What we say becomes what we think, and we think what we become.

I say we are lucky, not only to live in a society that exhibits some of the best traits of human nature, but also in one of the most liberated, liberal and caring countries in the world.

And I think I’m right.

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