I Respectfully Disagree

Are we as one-humanity collectively ‘out of kilter’? Do we pay enough credence to how we relate to one another in relation to the health we individually and collectively experience? And is the next step in our evolution to bring a level of harmony to all our interactions, to seed forth a way of being in community far grander than our current model?

I recently had an experience in a group meeting where I was feeling the tension of something another was saying. A familiar feeling of unease started to arise in my body; tension caused by not agreeing with what someone else thought and was sharing. Yet I knew this was my own process of accepting the differences that can arise at any time when we are living and interacting in the world.

This, I’m sure, is a common experience where there is a strong desire for others to experience situations as we do, to relate in the same way and be in agreement with our views, for us to essentially be confirmed as right and thus justified in righteousness. When this doesn’t occur it often results in confrontation and argument, where one or both parties may go into shutdown mode, where we may silently curse another, feeling disbelief that they can’t see our point of view.

So how to respond when such feelings arise? In this example I felt it was important for me to convey what I was experiencing – what felt true for me. So I waited my turn to speak and then shared as openly as I could my viewpoint, but in this sharing I made sure I wasn’t forceful, that there was no imposition or pressing to be ‘right’ and I made it clear that this was my view, not one others had to share.

Towards the end of the meeting I could feel there was a remaining tension from the process and so I shared the view with the group that it was OK to disagree, that this was a natural process we had to go through, and that our relationships were more important than the outcome, that they were in fact part of the outcome. To maintain harmony in our relationship as a group was the key aspect of how we handle anything that arises. From this honesty, we were able to ‘respectfully disagree.’

These last two words are missing in our societies today, our tabloid style media, being a rather obvious example where points are pressed home to score hits with collateral damage, focussing derision on anyone who doesn’t fit into a predetermined social norm. It is also seen widely in social media and online forums where we hide behind our screens and aim barbs at those who dare to have a different point of view to our own – heightened by the anonymous ways we often interact.

Why such sensational outbursts? Why such anger in our confrontational manner? Where is our ability to respectfully disagree, to allow another to have their view? Have we become rather mean in our societies, unable to show allowing and understanding for differences?

And what is the harm to us and all those who experience this? What effect does this disrespect have on our bodies? Is this a poison that seeps through all who engage with it? How much simpler it is to have decency and love for one another regardless of our point of view. This for me is how we move as a society towards harmonious relationships and collective good health.

How we relate to one another is as important as any lifestyle choice. We can all choose to take that and start appreciating that we can always respectfully disagree, and that needing another to share our outlook is neither healthy nor realistic. We can give each other the grace to experience life in our own unique ways and let the truth unfold. I have been observing that truth always rises to the surface, and there can be no true learning unless I am respectful and considerate.

We can always choose to hold one another in regard, irrespective of our differing views. In the situation I shared above, I am learning to trust that the outcome will be guided by the process, one that I wish to be about openness in communication, respect for one another, and love for all.

May all our relationships move towards the level of harmony, love and truth that is our natural way.

By Stephen Gammack, Sydney, Australia

Related Reading:
The importance of expressing truth
Self-care: Expressing how you feel
How do you have communication without reaction?

639 thoughts on “I Respectfully Disagree

  1. What a beautiful gift it is to be able to respectfully disagree with another. This is not a skill in diplomacy but a living quality of stillness in our bodies that communicates the truth well before we voice our views.

  2. “our relationships were more important than the outcome” What a great standard this would be to have in any kind of company contract, or any relationship whether with family, partner, friend or colleague. It would undoubtedly set the scene for a very different way forward for everyone of us.

  3. Stephen, this is beautiful; ‘We can always choose to hold one another in regard, irrespective of our differing views.’ I can feel how important it is to respect and care about each other and to have understanding about where we all are at and why we may feel the way we do.

  4. ‘Yet I knew this was my own process of accepting the differences that can arise at any time when we are living and interacting in the world.’ Reading this makes me realise that rather than react and go into tension and anxiety we can understand and express what we are feeling without reaction and judgement.

  5. When we take a step back and observe our conversations, it is easy to see that most of the time what we individually express often comes with a need to be heard or for someone to agree with us. This is when our conversations can be capped by our need to be heard and disagreements can arise.

  6. I like this Stephen. Disagreement can be a process that is dealt with, with absolute respect to all concerned. When it becomes disrespectful, something else has ‘entered the fray’, something personal, something altogether less wholesome and in fact quite unnatural. It can be felt, as you describe – if we pay enough attention to our senses. And when this point is reached I feel it would be very wise for all concerned to ‘take a step back’ and realise that nothing is worth sacrificing our innate respect for one another.

    1. I agree Alexandre, the quality of our conversations would be very different when there is no judgement but a deep holding and willingness to listen with an open heart. The fact that we have to practice daily to have conversations without judgement is an indication that we have lost our basic understanding of communication, respect and love.

  7. Great observations Stephen. I have experienced the urge to suddenly say share something many times in groups gone by and now see that it has come from a lack of appreciation and surrender to myself. As I let go and open up more to others, the focus comes more on the quality of the group than the point I had to share.

  8. This is a great question; ‘Have we become rather mean in our societies, unable to show allowing and understanding for differences?’ From my experience I would say that as a society we can be very judgemental of each other and generally not very understanding or accepting when others have different opinions to our own.

  9. Stephen, this is super helpful; ‘tension caused by not agreeing with what someone else thought and was sharing. Yet I knew this was my own process of accepting the differences that can arise at any time when we are living and interacting in the world.’ I have had this feeling of tension and reading this article supports me to know that we have differences and to accept others opinion and also to openly and lovingly express how i feel.

  10. ‘How we relate to one another is as important as any lifestyle choice’, how we relate is in itself a lifestyle choice, as if we react, get angry, sad or annoyed with another we are choosing that specific emotional impact on our body, which in time will take its toll physically, long after it affects us energetically.

  11. It is indeed remarkable how when we feel something is inappropriate, and we express that, how so often the other person will simply accept what is being said. I am very often amazed and surprised by this, as have spent so much of my life expecting to be ‘put down’ or ‘squashed’ for saying how I feel, as was so often the case in the past. But by claiming the truth of how one feels makes it much simpler and clearer for another to understand and accept.

  12. I agree with you Stephen that there is a lack of common decency towards each other. We seem to be dropping our ‘standards’ of how to interact with each other and because of this we have accepted more abusive behaviour, rather than nipping it in the bud.

    1. It is a slow slide that unless the standard is set, or the bar is put in place we slip without perception to lower and lower quality of interaction.

  13. When I am attached to that which comes through me I find myself wanting to control and manipulate situations and people, having said that, when I find myself knowing and sensing that what is coming through me is not from me I am not invested in any outcome; I know things will plan out in the way it is intended – there is a huge difference in my movements up until that point.

    1. I have a similar experience Caroline – also when I am not a 100% with the person who is speaking, that is giving them my full attention as I surrender to my body – then I can react and momentarily disrupt an otherwise harmonious flow. The more I stay present, appreciate and honour myself the deeper my relationship with myself and others and the less I react.

  14. “How we relate to one another is as important as any lifestyle choice.” – how we express and are with one another is huge, as in it makes a big difference to all and having simple decency and respect for one another should never be dismissed.

  15. Stephen, the way you shared your viewpoint is truly inspirational; ‘ in this sharing I made sure I wasn’t forceful, that there was no imposition or pressing to be ‘right’ and I made it clear that this was my view, not one others had to share.’ It feels really important to express what we are feeling and this is great to do so without force and righteousness, simply expressing what feels true without attachment that the other person will agree.

    1. Well said Elizabeth and what do we tend to do when we feel we are being imposed on? We tend to shut down our expression and not listen. It is like a sure way to not have evolving conversations when we impose our views on others.

  16. When we are honest and willing to express that we disagree respectfully it opens the door the opportunity to reach a one unified truth.

    1. Beautifully expressed jstewart51. By respectfully disagreeing when another’s viewpoint is different from ours, we bring understanding into the equation which creates a space for the allowing of a deeper connection to occur between us.

  17. I have just reflected on how I have been sometimes after reading this. In how at times I have wanted to get ‘my’ point across regardless of anyone else. In this action when I have done this I have just made it about me not the all not others and not the bigger picture. I can appreciate just how much I have changed with this and recently at work have allowed myself to have another reflection of what and where I need to change in order for relationships to be more harmonious. Our relationships are not fixed or set they are forever changing and if we are willing can receive a big learning and healing in them in both how we are in them and how we respond to others.

  18. It is one thing to disagree about something, it is a completely different thing to make it all about you by making it all about the outcome.

    1. Well said, love is not about always agreeing with one another and we can express our beliefs or understandings with love and not with a need for another to agree.

  19. This fits in so well when we don’t judge someone but accept how we are all in the place we are at. It is how it is, and I simply need to be who I am, and let everyone else be who they are. It is very precious to have this acceptance of myself and everyone else.

  20. What if relating to one and another needs to be the first priority made by us- there are no on and offs of being loving. And even before: how do we treat ourselves to then treat another in that way? How much love do we allow in ourself. It always starts in the micro cosmos and then expands in the macro cosmos.

    1. I agree, so for example at any meeting make it first about connecting with each before what the meeting is actually about.

      1. It is never about the actual meeting or outcome- it is always about people. Meeting each other and stepping through that into the full potential of that constellation, which allows a certain quality is the truest goal you can have at a meeting.

  21. It all starts with acceptance. The moment I accept deeply and truthful, where the other one is at and/or in what angle I get something presented I can respond to instead of react.

  22. The space to allow another to have their view, or their way, and it not be the same as yours is an essential part of every relationship.

  23. I love what you shared with your group: “our relationships were more important than the outcome, that they were in fact part of the outcome”. Such an important point, for us to remember and take care of the actual foundation we stand on. Love is our true essence and as long as this remains the underlying driver of our choices and interactions, everything else will eventually fall into a perfect harmonious and honouring place.

  24. Yes, let’s say it loud and clear: we as a society are out of kilter, and that has become our normal. We desperately need a different way. By being honest about our present situation we can actually start to open for a different way of living, a different way based on love that has been presented by many masters throughout the ages.

  25. The more I see truth the more the gap widens between truth and all the rest that goes on around us all – this leads to more and more opportunities to just respectfully and sometimes silently disagree. It feels good to observe clearly in any case even if there is nothing to say, and to be clear within myself.

    1. To announce the truth that I feel inside me has already an effect. As sometimes it is not the right timing to express it by words, but by just moving my truth, it gets communicated anyway.

  26. In a way the people we look to most like our political leaders, or the heads of large companies are seriously letting us down in this area. They argue, they fight, they try to dominate the other. There is a giant opportunity for people who hold such roles to be the role models you discuss.

    1. That´s so true. We get the reflection through those public people, that it is ok to be disrespectful with each other. How important then to reflect something different in these kind of areas, so that excuses to behave like that don´t have the same hook and temptation for society like it has now.

  27. “How we relate to one another is as important as any lifestyle choice…” This is a great point, and likely overlooked as how we live influences the way we feel, our thoughts, our conversation, our relationship with ourselves which naturally influences the quality of conversation we have with one another.

    1. Agreed I know that the relationships that I have either support me to be all of whom I am or try and bring me down, this is with everything. What I also understand however is that with what you are saying the way I choose to relate to another is key first and foremost. I am in charge of that.

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