ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Religion and Philosophy»
  • Atheism & Agnosticism

Maintaining Mutual Respect in Disagreement

Updated on January 1, 2016

Respectful Disagreement

Source

Introduction

It's certainly true that the more you delve into controversial subjects, the more likely that you'll receive heat and backlash for your positions from people who see the world differently than you do. An unfortunate consequence of that truth is that conversations about contentious subjects often breed heated commentary that can escalate to a point that often seems beyond your control. These attempts at communication can quickly spiral out of control until you're left wondering where things went so wrong, and you're frantically trying to get your point across to someone who seems intent on not listening. While it's often tempting to take the often intentional bait and dive into these devolving arguments head-on, it's often better to sit back, take a deep breath and recollect your thoughts. Understanding that not all conversations are meaningful or productive can go a long way towards maintaining your own sanity, self-respect and underlying acceptance that differing opinions are okay - in fact, they're welcome. Recognizing that, however, does not mean that you have to open yourself up to unnecessary, insulting comments from those who are searching for anything but understanding or meaningful, productive dialog with those who believe differently.

Respect is an important factor in communication that seems to be overlooked far too often. There is confusion surrounding the idea of respect, and this confusion often makes potentially meaningful conversations head down the wrong rabbit hole. When conversing with others - particularly others who fundamentally disagree with you on a pivotal level - it's important to recognize that you can speak respectfully to the person without necessarily having to respect their ideas, comments or opinions. It is never acceptable to start slinging insults against the person that you're in disagreement with. It is likewise unacceptable to start leveling criticisms about the character of the person you're disagreeing with instead of criticizing the ideas of comments that they're putting forth. Recognizing this respect factor can help us elevate our conversations to a place of mutual respect and understanding, even if we do not see eye to eye. Respecting the person behind the opposite position does not in any way imply that agreement is necessary. It is possible to vehemently disagree with a position while still simultaneously offering respect to the person who holds it. This is the standard to which conversations should be held - even if we sometimes fail to live up to our own expectations and cannot reasonably assume that other people will share them.

Recognizing and Embracing our Differences

How Do You Handle Conflict?

See results

The Separation Effect

For some people, it is incredibly difficult to separate who they are as people from either their beliefs or their positions on sensitive issues. For others, it comes naturally. I have conversations with people spanning many beliefs who seem to think that any challenge or criticism of their belief is a criticism of them as people or an attack on their character, when I often intend nothing of the sort.

I welcome disagreement and discussion and I recognize the fact that who I am as a person is a separate issue from what I believe or the positions I hold either socially, religiously or politically. Challenging my beliefs or statements, therefore, is an opportunity for me to better understand them or clarify them. It's hard to not go into immediate defensive mode when we perceive that something we hold dear to us is being attacked or insulted. Recognizing that separation, therefore, is a pivotal part of the process. Challenging or criticizing my positions does not equate to criticizing me as a person. When it crosses the line into a blatant attack on me or my character, however, it definitely crosses the line, and at that point I'm likely to choose to no longer engage with that particular line of dialog or the person making it.

Effective Communication

Source

The Hypocrisy Factor

Hypocrisy is unfortunately a side effect of simply being human. We all are hypocritical at times, whether we recognize/admit it or not. Before leveling an accusation of hypocrisy, however, it is important to recognize what hypocrisy is - and what it isn't.

Hypocrisy, according to the dictionary is:
the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform; pretense.

It would be hypocritical, for example, for me to demand a standard of respect for my ideals or beliefs while not extending that same courtesy to others. The problem here is that I do not see a challenge or criticism of my beliefs as disrespectful against me as a person. Criticizing me as a person, however, is a different matter altogether. If I expect someone to treat me, a human being, with respect and then call them a name or insult them personally, I would be a hypocrite. If I level a criticism of their beliefs or a statement that they've made, however, and they react by personally insulting me, that is out of line.

It is also not hypocritical to delete comments that do not conform with the Terms of Service of the platform you are using - like HubPages. I welcome comments from people of all beliefs and opinions unless the violate the terms of service. Personal attacks, insults and accusations will not be allowed on my hubs - not because i"m afraid of the confrontation, but simply because allowing comments of that nature can drive traffic and communication away from my hub and even cause my hub to be unpublished due to the violation. It is my prerogative as an author to moderate the comments that are received on my hub, and deleting comments that are abusive, accusatory and unproductive is fully within my rights. This does not violate the free speech of those who are commenting - they're more than welcome to comment. That does not mean that they have the undeniable right to have those comments approved or posted on my writing. Taking advantage of the freedom of speech comes with potential consequences - one of which is having your comments deleted or ignored without further notification. All members of Hubpages agree to abide by the rules of the site on which our content is published, and as an author it is my responsibility to ensure that those rules are followed on my content. If I don't, my writing can be negatively impacted. I have even moderated my own comments on occasion after recognizing that I spoke in a manner that I was less than proud of.


Source

Admitting Our Faults

How Easy Is it For You To Admit You Were Wrong

See results

Recognizing Similarities in Discord

Despite whatever differences we may have ideologically, politically or religiously, we have far more in common than may meet the eye. We are all human beings, sharing an earth. We all have similar desires to survive and to thrive, and we live in a pluralistic world. That means that while we may not always agree, we do have to find a way to coexist - even in discord. I do not necessarily have to like a person's ideas or methods, but I do have to recognize that they are a fellow human being with need and desires that are distinctly human. Sometimes recognizing the ways in which we are similar help to bridge the gap between our differences and give us a starting place of common ground with which we can continue the conversation in a productive, meaningful and respectful way.

Approaching Theists - Fostering Continued Communication

Conclusion - Communicating Effectively

There are few tips to keep in mind when communicating with someone who's positions or beliefs differ greatly from our own. While these tips are effective in everyday communication with friends and family members with which we have much in common, they are even more important to remember in conversations that contain disagreement.

1. Clarify, don't assume.
While this may seem like an easy and obvious step, it's far harder to remember it within the heat of the moment. If a conversation or disagreement has already escalated, it's incredibly difficult to keep certain things in mind. It's easy to allow our perceptions of what's being said to cloud our judgment, enabling us to jump to conclusions and put words in the mouth of the person we're disagreeing with. If we're not certain what they meant in a comment, ask for clarification. If they aren't willing to elaborate or to phrase their response in a different way, try to phrase the comment in question in your own words and ask if that's really what they mean. People who are open to dialog won't mind restating or correcting their position when necessary, and conversations cannot move forward without mutual understanding.

2. Remember Control
Perhaps the most important thing to remember in these heated discussions is that the only person you are responsible for is yourself. You do not control the other person's actions or words, and you cannot dictate how they behave. You can, however, decide how you want to behave in response. You can either stoop to their level or rise above it altogether, refusing to engage with those who see insults as a means to squelching opposition or debate and removing the potential for conversation altogether. It's hard to not take the bait and start slinging barbs back and forth, especially about topics that you are passionate about. But remember, the only person that you have to go to bed with every night for the rest of your life is you. How are you going to feel about your actions after you've calmed down? Are you going to be proud of the way you handled yourself, or are you going to regret some of the things you said or did? If the answer is the later, you may need to rethink your approach or step back, take a deep breath and calm down before diving back into the fray. The way that other people speak to you does not reflect on your character - it reflects on theirs. Keeping that in mind can help us maintain our composure and our sanity in many of these hot-button, controversial topics.

3. Apologize When/If Necessary
If you've taken a breather from the conversation and recognized that you spoke in a manner that was unnecessary or uncalled for, it is not a sign of weakness to admit that you made a mistake and offer a sincere apology. In fact, recognizing and admitting our mistakes is a sign of strength and of courage. That being said, admitting that we spoke out of turn and behaved in a manner that was not in accordance with our own standards is not an easy thing to do, especially when you take pride in yourself and your convictions. But humbling yourself and admitting error - especially to someone that you vehemently disagree with - shows strength in character. This is true whether or not the other person recognizes it or not.

4. It's Okay to Call it Quits
If a conversation has gotten too out of control and the other party doesn't seem interested in cooling off or calming down, it is completely within your rights to take your leave of the conversation in question - or even the person that you're having the conversation with. Not all people are willing to speak reasonably and respectfully to others, especially in periods of intense disagreement, and that's okay. You don't have to see eye to eye with everyone on every issue, nor is it reasonable to expect that you will. There are some conversations and some people, however, with whom reasonable and respectful conversation simply seem impossible, and the effort is not worth the expenditure. It's okay to recognize that, too, and to refuse to engage with them further.

Regardless of what topics we enjoy discussing or how we approach controversial subjects, respect is an issue in any conversation at any level. If you want to be spoken to respectfully, it is important to offer that respect to those you engage with. The caveat to that, of course, is that individual perceptions of what constitutes respect vary from person to person, and it can be entirely subjective. The bottom line is to simply comport yourself in a manner that you are comfortable with at the end of the day. If you're okay with your own words and actions, then there's little more to be said. If you change your mind at some point and recognized that you behaved in a manner that does not coincide with the way you want to be viewed by others, it's never too late to change. It's possible to grow and learn and change throughout the course of our lives. As long as we're comfortable in our own skin, that's really all that matters at the end of the day.

© 2015 Julie McFarland

Thoughts and Observations are Welcome

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      Jmcf

      I would like to believe you about the views expressed here however if you delete my post again it will be clear that you are being hypocritical about holding such alleged views.

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      I am allowing your comment only because it so beautifully illustrates one of my points. I'm under no obligation to approve any comments. There are certain hubbers, like yourself, with whom I've previously interacted, and I know that conversations with you are typically neither respectful or productive, so I choose not to interact with you further. That's my choice, and it's my right as an author. But it has nothing to do with your beliefs or opinions. As evidenced in my hubs, I allow many comments from those of differing beliefs and opinions. It has to do with the way you present them and your behavior, and no matter how many times you say it, that doesn't make me a hypocrite. It makes me a person who has made an active choice over what I choose to participate with and with whom I'd rather not speak. It doesn't matter if you're a Christian, Muslim, pagan or atheist - if your behavior has led me to believe that interacting with you is not going to be productive, I'm not going to interact with you. Good day.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      Ok. Thats very promising.

      I totally agee with most of the views expressed in this Hub. It has obviously come from the heart and I sincerely hope these kinds of Hubs prosper in every way.

      It is clear to me that having civil discussions gets exponentially more difficult when topics are about ethics. "Ethics" may be a scientific way of saying "religion and politics". These topics have always been difficult. To me personally when the weaker members of humanity are influenced negatively it is incumbent on me to protest vigorously. In other words lines have to be drawn.

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Your comments are approved as long as they stay respectful to others, but I still personally choose not to interact with you.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      I have found that it is pointless to engage with certain people on certain subjects. I virtually never debate religion. I know they can't change my mind, so why should I think I can change their mind. Politics is often the same--people don't want to hear it. It doesn't matter how many facts you have. I put my ideas on the internet where people can read them or not. I walk away from personal debates as soon as I discover that the person's mind is closed. Voted up and interesting.

      Why do people who hate your ides keep reading you? They are looking for a fight. Don't give them one.

    • profile image

      Autumn Sunshine 2 years ago

      This is a bunch of BS. You are the epitome of one who likes to draw people in heat filled debates, and it is clear to me that you enjoy bating people. You are extremely arrogant, and I have no respect for you.

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      The only reason I have allowed autumn's comment is because it's a perfect example of the point this hub made. It is an example of an attack against a person, rather than the subject or idea, all done anonymously in an attempt to avoid potential repercussions. This is a true attempt to bait someone into an argument that is neither respectful or productive, and perfectly represents the point. Thanks, anonymous user for being so gracious as to provide an example of exactly what I was referring to.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      Autumn

      I can understand where you are coming from but I sense jmcf is trying to now make a break with the past and I believe it to be a genuine attempt.

      Refusing to engage with certain people is a worry but I am sure this too might change.

    • profile image

      Autumn Sunshine 2 years ago

      Oz- I doubt it. J thinks she is superior to everyone else, and she is always right! Remember that! (note my sarcasm)

      J - If someone wants a clear idea of what you are referring to, they only have to go to the forums and search for your name, and read what you've said. Then they will see a clear picture of what you are talking about.

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Interesting, Autumn. It seems like you have more interest in criticizing me as a person, rather than what I'm actually saying, which directly correlates to the message of this hub.

      Firstly, I don't claim to be superior to anyone, and I'm curious to know how an anonymous stranger would deem to know what I think or feel.

      Secondly, you're again directly contradicting some of the messages contained in this hub, which leads me to believe that you didn't bother to read it, and you're commenting for the sake of trying to demean or minimize me. I freely admit that I have said many things throughout the course of my life within the heat of the moment that I wish I wouldn't have said. In additional to that, I can think of multiple instances where I've admitted to being wrong about a point that I've made, or about something I've shared. I think you're confusing the idea of criticizing a statement, belief or opinion with criticizing, chastising or ridiculing the person making it. I can understand the confusion, since it was (again) addressed in the very hub that you're choosing to comment on.

      Finally, I think it's all to easy and convenient to hide behind an anonymous name without being signed in to HubPages to try to bait and provoke a mud-slinging match with name calling and other niceties. Is there a reason you feel that you can't say these things as yourself and have to hide behind a pseudonym? Or are you unable to sign into your account for one reason or another? If you continue to attempt personal attacks against myself or other commenters, you will quickly find that your comments cease being approved and are quickly deleted - as that's what the nature of this hub is all about, and personal attacks (even humorous attempts at them) are against the HubPages terms of service, and will not be tolerated. You have a nice day, now.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      Autumn

      I too have felt the many barbs as the record shows. However I will follow this hub and see how it goes "without prejudice" as the legal term implies.

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      I am to recall several barbs aimed at atheists from your direction as well, Oz.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      Jmcf

      I disagree. I have never attacked an individual only their theories. Also I don't attract intense vitriol.

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Oz, you're more than welcome to your opinion of course, but no one else I've spoken to on hp sees your interactions the way that you've just expressed. That includes people on both sides of the fence.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      Jmcf

      apparently the HP moderators agree with me.

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      I would also think, then, that they agree with me, and since we hold two very different positions, it doesn't seem your argument carries much weight. Not being banned doesn't mean much. Moderations are a direct result of reporting, and selective at best as both atheists and theists can attest to.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      Jmcf

      I am not the one "attacking" at the moment you are. You alleged no one sees it my way so I merely contradicted the argument. I did not attack you. Can you see the difference between the two?

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      I am not attacking, nor am I accusing you of doing so. What a strange thing to say. What I said was that no one I've spoken to on hp about you have seen your comments the way you seem to see them. That is users that are atheist and Christian alike. My friends do not include the staff of hp, responsible for moderation. But not being banned is not an indication of being innocent of wrongdoing.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      Jmcf

      You may not realize you are doing it, but it has occurred in a small way in these last few posts. Its the principle of attacking an argument as opposed to an individual. The further anyone strays from this the more problems occur. As a means of analyzing this process it would be better to leave these last few posts on so others can comment.

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      I will leave or remove anything from my hubs as I see fit, oz. I really don't recall asking for your input. Attacks are also subjective and based on the perception of the person seeing them. When you mentioned something about your comments, I responded to you. I said nothing about your character, only how your comments are perceived by myself and some others, and I'm disappointed in myself that I've been sucked into a dialog with you. It is a mistake that will certainly not continue. If you feel like I've attacked you personally, you are free to either report me or to stop visiting my hubs. I will not respond again. Whether or not your comments continue to be approved remains to be seen.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      Jmcf

      I will continue to strive for respectful dialogue. To have such respectful dialogue first requires dialogue

    • profile image

      Autumn Sunshine 2 years ago

      You said:

      "I am not attacking, nor am I accusing you of doing so. What a strange thing to say. What I said was that no one I've spoken to on hp about you have seen your comments the way you seem to see them. That is users that are atheist and Christian alike. My friends do not include the staff of hp, responsible for moderation. But not being banned is not an indication of being innocent of wrongdoing."

      This is what pisses me off. You always imply that you are in the right, and then try to bring other people into the argument as is to say, "See, it's not just me." But it is you. I have to say that the HP moderators are more likely to side with an atheist than with a Christian, as some Christians have been unfairly banned or left HP because of no support. This does not mean that YOU are in the right, for your comments are often condescending. "Of I am not this or that" you write, "That would be arrogant..." Well, you are arrogant. "What a strange thing to say" you write, as if you are half admitting that the person is correct about you. You know what you're doing. I have noticed that this hub has not received a lot of comments from other hubbers. Could be that they're not taking you seriously. And as for myself remaining anonymous, I am not "hiding" behind anything. I enjoy reading and commenting on other hubs, but have no desire to become a hubber myself.

    • Link10103 profile image

      Link10103 2 years ago

      I find it quite funny that the first visible comment from Oz talks about being a hypocrite and deleting comments when my comment is no longer visible on his post, especially since it addressed the exact reasons Jmc gave in the second comment after.

      And as if i wasn't certain before as to who Autumn is, i certainly am now. But, no proof, so meh.

      Respectful dialogue starts when both sides can assume a position that doesn't immediately denounce the other's viewpoint. As we can see, Autumn failed spectacularly first chance she got.

      It also starts when one side doesn't continually twist words around, imagine attacks that arent present, and present themselves like a victim when there is very blatant evidence that shows otherwise. That award goes to Oz.

      So is there still a chance for respectful discussion at all or is it easier to be typically hypocritical?

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Once again, autumn, you are attacking the person (a person who you do not know, might I add) and cannot seem to differentiate between attacking an argument rather than the person making it. Since you claim to not be interested in writing your own hubs and therefore have no comment count to compare, your point about the apparent lack of comments on this hub is also irrelevant.

      In closing, you may call me arrogant or full of it or anything else you find fitting. Your opinions of me as a stranger mean nothing. The same goes with your opinions about my writing and my supposed behaviors, which are entirely subjective. All can see your behaviors here, and are free to make their own judgements thereof. If you have any reasonable or meaningful points to make that do not involve name calling or bickering, you're free to state them. Otherwise, you're quickly going to discover that your further comments are more likely than not disappearing before anyone but you sees and reads them.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      Autumn

      I have made a brief but convincing point here that if people claim to want to have respectful dialogue but refuse to have a dialogue it is disrespectful. Hence hypicrisy can rear its head. Nevertheless I will keep trying here.

      Ozt

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      It is not hypocritical or disrespectful to decide based on past interactions that there are some people with whom you'd rather not have a dialog with, when the reasons for that decision are based entirely in the other person's behaviors. No one is owed the opportunity to converse. That's just making an informed decision. I'm not sure whom your point was convincing for. The person making it, perhaps. Certainly not me.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      JmcF

      I was just pointing out how easy it is too start that divide between a personal attack and an attack on an idea/theory. It happens incrementally without the parties being fully aware of it and ends in a lack of dialogue.

    • jlpark profile image

      Jacqui 2 years ago from New Zealand

      Funny how there are two of you having what appears to be reasonably respectful (most of the time) dialogue, but are talking about not having dialogue. Wonder if it's just me that can see you are actually achieving it...

      Julie - I like the hub, you make good points, and you own up to being unable to keep to some of them yourself, and being disappointed when you realise. That shows good insight, and that you are a mere human. If anyone could manage to do all those things, and never stray, I'm thinking they'd be speaking without emotion, and to speak without any emotion is....saddening.

      Oz - I think that you are trying to be respectful, trying to have a dialogue, but quite possibly going the wrong way about it. Do not hold JM as being able to keep to each of the things she writes about, just as you would not hold yourself to keeping all of them. I'm sure that JM (though, I cannot speak for her) does not hold everyone to those standards, and understands when others may also slip - particularly when they realise and apologise. However, your question on HP doesn't come across well if you are trying to have respectful dialogue - to me, it looks like the opposite - however here, you seem to be doing okay!.

      My comments:

      Mayhaps, the backing off and moving away from speaking to another hubber, even in comments in regards to respectful dialogue, is done due to INSIGHT into the reaction that person is having to what has been said, and that any response other than one distancing themselves from the converstation is going to be dis-respectful to the person to which they would be replying. I've typed many an answer or comment to a hubber, after being somewhat riled up, and deleted them (and occasionally even re-written and deleted again) because what I had to say was disrespectful, and not something that would add to respectful dialogue. By not having dialogue, or distancing myself from said dialogue, I am trying to maintain the respect two adults should have for one another's opinion.

      We are merely human - we feel emotions, and we feel them strongly at times, occasionally we will slip up and let our emotions get the better of us. We will answer in a way that is disrespectful, and we will need to apologise. Not one of us can meet all recommendations in this hub at all times, forever.

      At least, I can't, and I've got enough insight, and am honest enough to admit it.

    • Hannah David Cini profile image

      Hannah David Cini 2 years ago from Nottingham

      I agree with everything in this hub, well said. There is nothing wrong with respectful banter- it's how we learn to understand our own minds and other people too. I think when you stop respecting the person you are debating with it becomes counter productive because if you aren't willing to listen and have 2 way dialogue why be in the discussion at all.

      Learning to walk away when one side has checked out of listening/ conversing mode is an art form I am still to master. Great hub.

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Thanks so much Hannah for your comment and sharing your thoughts. I think refusing to expose ourselves to different ideas especially in disagreement causes us to stagnate and fail to grow. Not all contains are beneficial, however and learning how to recognize them is important in maintaining our sanity.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      JlPark

      I don't really expect perfection from JMcF.

      I have told her many times that I find something appealing about her "attitude" which I can't quite explain. It's a bit like a friendship where you can't agree on a single thing but still seem to find it interesting.

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 18 months ago

      There is no need for disagreement when your belief is opposite to mine.

    Click to Rate This Article