When Disagreement Is The Most Viable Option

How agreeable are you?

That is, how often do you just go with the flow, accept what other people say for truth, and bury your own thoughts and opinions?

A lot? Good news is you and I are the same. Bad news is that I have a couple crappy things to say about us being like this:

First, society hasn’t progressed based on a bunch of people sitting around a fireplace, agreeing with each other all the time. Thoughtful (and sometimes violent) disagreement is what’s moved us forward as a society - to the end of slavery, legalization of gay marriage, better treatment for certain diseases, the list goes on.

Take for example, how The Constitution of the United States came to be finalized. We’d like to believe that the Founding Fathers - a group of highly intellectual thinkers - all thought the 2nd amendment was dope and that they just sat around and nodded their heads at everything.

When in reality, they battled it out 18th century style in long-form essays—called The Federalist and Antifederalists Papers (which you can read if you like). The Constitution is more of a compromise, the result of extensive pushing and pulling, than anything else.

Second, the ability to disagree isn’t just impactful on a global or national level - it’s also what influences forward mobility in our careers, our lives, and in our families. In other words, we need to have the ability to stomach some degree of conflict, or at the very least discomfort, for things to continue moving forward on a micro scale, too.

Shoving things under the rug never works.

Third, people who have a “lack of agreeableness” as a driving character trait make more money that people who are agreeable. A lot more money according to this study. This makes sense when you think about it because people who aren’t as agreeable are a bit more comfortable with confrontation—including asking for raises, negotiating contracts, etc.

You and I probably need to learn a lesson or two from that.

I lay this case not to tell you to become disagreeable. Agreeableness is a fine quality when it comes to keeping the peace. We need people in the world that can do that. We need some stability to balance things out, to let things go.

But we also need people that are comfortable with the uncomfortable, confident in the pocket with a bunch of linebackers coming for their heads.

This isn’t about actively disagreeing for the sake of it. This is about having conviction—about believing in something bigger than yourself.

The Founding Fathers wanted to produce the best possible document they could so that future generations of Americans would never have their ‘unalienable rights’ infringed upon. They sparred and debated for that reason.

Malcolm X didn’t call for “any means necessary” because he wanted to see people killed. He called for it because he wanted future generations of black children in America to receive the same resources, respect, and attention as white children.

Uber didn’t give up when people didn’t “get it” at first (although, Travis should have calmed down after that). J.K. Rowling didn’t give up after having the first Harry Potter was rejected 12 times.

We need more virtuous, confident, open-minded, intelligent, hard-headed people, what author, Mark Manson, calls “ethical assholes.”

We need people who are willing to disagree in the name of something more important than themselves, than their feelings.

So, step up.

Say what you really feel.

Stand for something. In your job. In your family. In your peer group.

Don’t be afraid of disagreement.

Disagreement is the predecessor of betterment.

Kate Ward