This week in the wake of Chief Justice Scalia's untimely death, I found it interesting to hear a story about Chief Justice Breyer and his speech on Wednesday at Yale University Law School. In the introduction of his speech he spoke of his friend and colleague Chief Justice Antonin Scalia. The two were known for their polar opposition regarding the constitution: Chief Justice was an "originalist" that the justices should determine what the framers' original intent was and stick to it. Chief Justice Breyer is a believer of "fluid constitution", that the values of the framers' must be molded to apply to our modern society.
What caught my ear was that even though these gentlemen disagreed, they were respectful of each other and were friends. In some ways, they agreed to disagree and enjoyed a good legal argument. When I googled information about the justices, there were stories upon stories about their opposition but about their mutual respect of each other.
How refreshing. If only our current political candidates and our legislation could be so cordial with each other. If only they would "agree to disagree". But it made me wonder- how does one agree to disagree? I feel that I don't see that practiced often enough and wonder even if I practice it.
There are many online psychology sites and relationship sites that talk about it. There are ways to "agree to disagree" in marriage, in friendship, in the workplace, and in day to day interactions. The commonality in the different scenarios seems to be- one needs to be empathetic and put oneself in the other's position. In doing so, you build communication. You listen, you show respect for the other person, you don't discuss a heated issue when either one is emotional or upset, you don't make any arguments personal, you speak to common issues and needs (if possible), you compromise and you humbly realize that you might not have all the answers.
Interestingly that there was an article in the Sunday New York Times that spoke to divisiveness in our society. Even though it was not stated it seems as if the commonality behind divisiveness and the avoidance of anything that appears to be divisive is that we as a society do not know how to "play nice" with each other in essence, how to respectively agree to disagree. Instead we decide to avoid talking about issues at all. Of course, in doing so we break down communication and understanding even further.
Upon reflection, I can see that avoidance in my own life and in the lives of people I know. There have been times when topics or ideas seem to be divisive. In some ways, the prevailing idea is that to keep the peace, there will not be any discussion about the situation. Sometimes that is a wise course of action and certainly it is an easier one but generally avoidance is like covering an infected wound without the aid of any treatments. Not a good practice. At best there will never be any healing and at worst a chance of septicemia and death.
How are you with agreeing to disagree? Do you discuss opinions or topics with family, friends, co-workers? What does it look like? Have you ever "argued" with someone trying to keep their needs and viewpoint in mind? How did it go?
It seems to me discussing difficult subjects or opinions in a respectful way is needed if we want to be healthy in our individual relationships and in our societal ones.