How boring would life be if we all had the same thoughts, opinions and perspectives? Luckily, we are all different. No one sees things in exactly the same way as you do, because few, if any, share your experiences, intellectual capabilities and perspective. As a result, you cannot always totally interpret and see things the same way as someone else. Once you accept this fact, you improve your chance of living in peace and harmony with others.
Since we cannot eliminate disagreement, we must learn how to effectively deal with it. How do we do that? Here are few suggestions:
When someone disagrees with us, more often than not, we react defensively. And when we get defensive we miss a learning opportunity. We often view the person who disagrees with us as an opponent or an enemy. But, if we saw them as partners with a novel perspective, one we may not have considered before and through this disagreement, they are allowing us to see things through different eyes and broadening our perspective, we are likely to learn a lot more, improve our decision making and relationships. Sometimes, we can learn more from someone who disagrees with us than from those with whom we agree.
Two people came to Dawood (AS) to settle their differences. A farmer was accusing a shepherd of destroying his harvest by letting the sheep enter his farm. Dawood (AS), well known for his wisdom, passed a judgment that gave the flock of sheep to the farmer as compensation for his losses. Upon hearing this, Suleiman (AS), who was 11 years old, offered a different solution. He suggested having the shepherd cultivate the field until harvest, while the farmer takes the sheep and makes use of their wool and milk until his field is restored. In doing so, the shepherd would only lend his flock of sheep to the farmer for a limited period of time rather than losing it for good. Dawood (AS) accepted his son’s judgment and changed his ruling accordingly.
Accept Disagreement – You can both be right
When his companions were heading to Banu Quraida, the Prophet (PBUH) instructed them to pray Asr at their destination. However, the prayer time came while they were still on route, so some of the companions prayed, whereas others opted to wait until they reached their destination. The first group saw the Prophet’s statement as a need for them to hurry. While the second group’s interpretation was more literal, that is, to pray only when they reach their destination. When the Prophet (PBUH) was informed, he did not blame or scold either of them. Basically, there could be more than one way to view a situation or look at an issue.
Turn the argument into a discussion
Disagreements often lead to arguments. And rarely does arguing change anyone’s mind. It usually leads to ill feeling. Ask yourself, how do you feel when you lose an argument? You are likely to feel irritated or angry towards the other person. And when you win an argument, what have you won? Nothing, except the other person’s resentment. On the other hand, open discussion allows everyone to be heard and different ideas to be considered.
To turn an argument into a discussion, try to build a bridge of understanding by looking for areas of agreement. When you disagree with someone, give them a chance to talk. Don’t let your disagreements with them become an excuse for disrespect. You can listen respectfully and still disagree.
Agree to disagree
You will always find someone who disagrees with you. Imam Shafi, who differed with Imam Malik even though he was his student, once said, “I believe my opinion is right with the possibility that it is wrong and I believe the opinion of those who disagree with me is wrong with the possibility that it is right.” Mark Twain put it this way, “If two people always have the same opinion, you don’t need one of them.”
Trying to make everyone see things the way you do is a waste of time and energy. Why not agree to disagree and then look for what you can learn from this difference.