The phrase “agree to disagree” first appeared in print in 1770 when, at the death of George Whitefield, an Anglican cleric, John Wesley wrote a memorial sermon for his fellow cleric. Wesley acknowledged, but downplayed the two men’s doctrinal differences using a phrase written by Whitefield himself in 1750:
“After all, those who will live in peace must agree to disagree in many things with their fellow-labourers, and not let little things part or disunite them.”
The phrase “agree to disagree” is frequently used when someone wants to end an argument where both parties think they are right, but conclude that they will get nowhere by continuing to argue.
So how do people make joint decisions when they have different opinions and continue to disagree on an issue?
First, they need to recognize and accept that each of them is entitled to their own opinion and that each opinion may have validity. While it sounds simple, it is very hard for many people to even acknowledge someone else’s opinion, let alone let go of their own position.
Let’s look at an example:
Johnny cannot continue with hockey because he has to get up at 5 am to go to practice. He will be tired and then do badly at school. He should take up another sport, like tennis, that he can play at a more convenient time and which will take less time out of his life.
Johnny should continue with hockey because, first of all, he loves it. Playing sports is good for the brain and will help him with school. Playing this game teaches him, among other skills, how to be part of a team.
If these parents are willing to accept that they each have their point of view, but are at different ends of the spectrum, how can they possibly resolve the problem? Here are some options that come to mind:
- Talk to his teachers about how he is doing in school. Ask them what they think of him being on the hockey team and how it might affect his work.
- Bring Johnny into the conversation, explain to him the pros and cons, and get his opinion.
- Sign Johnny up for a set period of time and see how it affects the rest of his schedule.
Have you ever been in a situation with someone, as a parent or in any other situation, where you were willing to agree to disagree, but then could not find a compromise?
I work with many couples and many families that face disagreement. Once they agree to disagree, I help them brainstorm options and find solutions. Give me a call if you or someone you know is faced with a similar situation.
jennifer safian. divorce and family mediator
divorce and family mediation
upper east side of manhattan (nyc)
new york, ny