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  • Writer's pictureDr. Nathan T. Morton

The Value of Disagreeable Friends

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

1. A friend who disagrees is a friend indeed

A circle of friends with diverse opinions, viewpoints, and perspectives builds stronger and healthier relationships among people who have a high EQ.*

I have friends on social media (and in real life) who are across the spectrum on many issues. Occasionally someone will post that they are “purging” their friends/followers list, or I’ll hear someone say, “I unfriended so-and-so because I’m tired of reading what they post.” (I guess scrolling past the post without with out comment or reaction is just too difficult.)

Too many people have reduced the circle of their relationships to an echo chamber of agreeable ideas, which is unhealthy and can animate sociopathic tendencies.

The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) states that one of the features of sociopathy is the ease with which people will “disregard the rights of others.” One characteristic is the impulse and urgency to dominate others. One of the ways this issue presents is in the need to always be right. Simply put, the inability to be at peace with the disagreement of others indicates low EQ.

In reverse, acting intentionally to develop your circle of relationships to include diverse views and opinions not only inhibits narcissistic tendencies, it can also strengthen and raise one’s EQ. Consider the power of the free market to improve the quality of products and quantity of options available. In the same way, relational well-reasoned pushback strengthens the quality of the inward self.

2. HOW you communicate is as important as WHAT you communicate

The three most negative elements of communication can be expressed in a single phrase: “defensive stonewalling contempt.“ All of these disregards the proverb, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge pleasant, but a fool’s mouth spouts foolishness.” (Proverbs 15:1-2)

This failure in communication, not always evident in casual conversation, can become uncomfortably obvious when that conversation transitions to topics cherished by the individual. Here, negative patterns of conversation reveal themselves. Beware of defensive responses that shut down, cut off, or demean those with opposing viewpoints. Putting yourself in an adversarial relationship not only ends the conversation (and quite often the friendship), it can also prompt feelings of hate and bitterness.

Social media has made “insult experts” of us all. In the past, we would walk away from a disagreement beating ourselves over, “what we wished we had said” –no longer. Now, anti-social media has given us a pause space where we can “think up” or “google” a cutting response which we then quickly post after putting the insult into our “holster” to use again at a later time.

The Apostle Paul warned us against this behavior. “Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but if there is any good word for edification according to the need of the moment, say that, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

3. Truth is powerful, opinions are not.

In the Vice-Presidential debate of October 2020, former VP Pence responded to VP Harris “You’re entitled to your own opinion but you’re not entitled to your own facts.” We must understand the difference. Opinions are perspectives based upon facts. Additionally, a truly informed opinion must be informed by all sides of the issue.

In personal relationships, there is an unspoken contract between individuals that truth matters more. We break this contract when we elevate opinion to the level of fact. Each participant bears not only the responsibility to speak honestly, but the willingness to hear honestly. We must acknowledge when opinion is pushing against fact and then have the self-awareness to admit it. Those points when we allow this to happen will deepen our relationships and often become some of the most cherished moments in our relationships.

* Emotional intelligence (otherwise known as emotional quotient or EQ) is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict. Emotional intelligence helps you build stronger relationships, succeed at school and work, and achieve your career and personal goals. It can also help you to connect with your feelings, turn intention into action, and make informed decisions about what matters most to you.

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