It’s OK to disagree in a face-to-face conversation

We have casual face-to-face (and telephonic) conversations everyday. We chat with our friends, discuss latest gossip with colleagues and sometimes also strike up conversations with strangers while waiting for a bus or something. I have observed that in such casual conversations most people (impulsively) tend to agree with each other, no matter what is being discussed. For example, imagine this conversation: I meet my cousin at a family function and I bring up my love for Goa as a vacation spot. Irrespective of his own opinions, my cousin is likely to respond in this manner: “Yes, it is really a fun destination”. For all I know, he may have hated his experience in Goa last time, but because of unsaid conventions, most conversations enter into mutual appreciation mode. I agree to what you say, and you agree to what I say.

Why do people have affirmative casual conversations?

Because agreeing is much less riskier than disagreeing. Unless you strongly disagree on a topic, it simply isn’t worth confronting the other person with your disagreement. So what if you hate Goa? It isn’t worth upsetting rosy fantasies of your cousin who you only meet once in a while. This drive to agree with others is so strong that even if some people want to express their disagreement, they would qualify it with an acknowledgement first. For example, they may say “Goa is nice but I didn’t like the beaches. They were dirty”.

awesome
No, you’re not!

Of course, if someone brings up a sensitive topic (like religion, family, ethnicity or anything else you strongly care about), you would certainly disagree. For example, if my best friend says to me “Punjabis are rude and brash”, I will certainly confront him with my arguments. However, the problem is that some people qualify their disagreement even on topics they strongly care about. In hope to sound nice, they may say: “You may be right about Punjabis, but it is not 100% true because…”. Why in this world can’t you simply and plainly disagree?

People find it easier to disagree on online forums/platforms. This is because of two reasons:

  • Our online identities are somewhat masked. My online handle @paraschopra is not as authentic representation of me as the words coming out of my mouth while I am having a face to face conversation. What this leads to is a somewhat emotionally detached point of view, where you argue based on facts not caring a lot about others’ reactions (because you can’t observe them online as you would do in a face to face conversation). As they say, you don’t have to be necessarily nice on the Internet.
  • There is no immediacy in responding. One of the reasons why we tend to agree (in person) is because we subconsciously fear that we may not have enough time to justify our disagreement, so we risk coming across as a fool. But online it is different: you get enough time to think through your opinions and lay out your disagreement.

But, of course, anonymous people online can go crazy and simply disagree for disagreement’s sake. Obviously, this is not what I am arguing for. My point is that:

It’s not rude to disagree in personal conversations

Cowing to others’ opinions in a conversation is mark of a weak person. If you find disagreeing online easier, there is no reason why you shouldn’t stand for your opinions while talking in person or over phone. A conversation where all you do do is blindly agree with each other is a grand waste of time and is so boring. I say something, you agree. You say something, I agree. What are we doing here? Pleasuring each other?

disagree
Hell, yeah! Only people who disagree go on to make new theories.

Conversations with different opinions are much more interesting. If you don’t like Goa, just say it. Don’t qualify it, just tell me your reasons and we should be having a much more meaningful conversation. If you don’t like color of your friend’s newly painted house, just tell him that when he brings up this topic. Of course, you don’t have to bring up the color issue out of the blue. That would be rude. What wouldn’t be rude is to tell your friend that you find the color dull when he asks you: “Do you like this new color I have chosen?”. You shouldn’t lie. You shouldn’t agree just to be nice.

Please stop agreeing with others out of fear and impulsion. Stand firm on your opinons.

OK, so do you agree with me on this?

8 comments

  1. Interesting blog post..

    Got me thinking, when was the last time I agreed with someone just for the sake of avoiding some conflict or appearing nicer in their eyes

    I think you make a lot of sense when you say “Please stop agreeing with others out of fear and impulsion. Stand firm on your opinons.”, and that’s the biggest (or one of the biggest) problems people face –– not following some conventional path.

    So, what I like to do, is contradict to what my friends say (unless I agree 100% with what they’re stating). Of course, as a result, they’ll really double check whether they want to share something with you, but it’s a fun game to play πŸ˜‰

  2. The older I get, the less I argue. I prefer to keep quiet. Although that might be sub-optimal. I tend to not argue with strangers as I don’t know how stupid or smart they are.

    Also giving it 5 minutes, is also good. I might have an impulsive reaction and thinking about the other person’s perspective is valuable.

    With that said, I argue a lot πŸ˜€

    I am quite opinionated and I usually don’t mince words. Gets me into trouble too πŸ™‚

  3. Interesting post. Frankly I don’t believe in instant reaction and disagreement unless it is something really against my views.

    But of course, if it is about liking/disliking Goa or the color of his shirt when someone asks, I prefer putting it across in a more subtle way or diplomatic way. I mean, I would rather say I like the the other color more, than saying I don’t like this color.

    ‘Blatant disagreement’ when someone is seeking your opinion might just turn him off.

    Having said that, you gotta to be true to yourself and give your honest opinion. I think your response should be a mix of honesty and diplomacy. πŸ™‚

  4. I think is very contextual, sometime its worth disagreeing whether known or unknown people, online or face to face and some other time we simply don’t bother or want to spend extra time so the best solution is just be neutral and agree. But yes If you are doing this with a close friend or relative than it should be avoided.

  5. Written by one teacher of around 300BC, Chanakya, through his book Niti Shastr

    ‘Even a pandit comes to grief by giving instruction to a foolish disciple…’

    My thought is a far-cry from it, but fundamentally related:
    Until absolutely necessary or to a person who can be trusted to understand and stimulate different prospectives, should such disagreements be presented. Being observant and absorbing is useful, being outspoken is wasteful.

    Having said that, being double ended or sacrificing opinion for the sake of keeping easy is, in fact, a sign of weakness.

  6. I agree with you Paras, but not to keep the peace of course πŸ™‚ I have found that if i express my opinions with some people and i dont agree with them that some will avoid getting into a conversation with me again but i dont mind this as i realise that some people will only be happy talking with me if i agree with everything that they say.

    I like to have deep discussions, to debate but a lot of people that i know only like to talk about the fluff stuff, small talk and they are comfortable only if i agree all of the time.

  7. You definitely haven’t been to Russia. It’s OK here to disagree if that’s what you feel (unless you’re talking to your boss) and it’s not common that someone qualifies his disagreement. I wouldn’t say it’s something to be proud of, but I guess it’s interesting to know πŸ™‚

  8. I REALLY hope that the irony in this comment section is intentional.

    (And yes I would say this in person as well)

Comments are closed.