10 Rules for Better Disagreements

Yesterday, a buddy asked me what kind of society I wanted to live in.

Aside from the typical responses (equality of opportunity, no poverty, compassion), I tried to think of something a bit more realistic.

I wish I lived in a society where we could have disagreements with one another.

It seems like most people are so eager to chop another person’s head off if they disagree with them. Disagreeing is a skill. It can be improved with better conversational habits and mindfulness.

Here are my 10 Commandments for having healthier disagreements:

  1. Understand that no matter what, there will always be a ton of people who disagree with you about pretty much everything.
  2. You have zero control over another person’s thoughts or opinions. You have complete control over how you engage in conversation.
  3. If you approach a conversation with the hopes to validate your already-held beliefs, instead of to learn, you will lose.
  4. Changing your mind—and admitting that you’ve had your mind changed—doesn’t make you weaker; it makes you stronger than most people.
  5. Don’t say “I could be wrong but…” and then provide your opinion. This is a cop-out and is not a substitute for true humility.
  6. You cannot construct a proper argument if you cannot perfectly articulate the other person’s argument. They must be able to say, “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.”
  7. If you have a physical reaction to someone else’s opinions, slow down and ask more questions.
  8. Approach every conversation with the assumption that everyone knows something you don’t.
  9. You are most likely wrong about most things. Don’t see being wrong as an error; be thrilled to be wrong so you can improve your awareness.
  10. Confirmation bias is in each of us and it’s inescapable. It will always feel amazing to listen to things we agree with and it will always feel terrible to listen to things we disagree with. Challenge what you agree with and be open-minded to what you disagree with.