When I was in the band, I argued with a particular one of our guitars players A LOT. Sometimes it was over an important band related decision. Other times it was about a movie. We argued about anything and everything. But at the end of it all, we were still friends. We have both made this observation at different points through the years, and expressed how much we appreciated the dynamic. We still argue on a semi-regular basis via social media. Most importantly, we are still friends. You might be thinking, "good for you, what's the point?" Well, it is more significant than it sounds. I am not talking about a, "can't we all just get along," type of thing--like you might have to do with a family member that really drives you insane, but you have to put up with them during the holidays. No. What I am talking about goes beyond simply learning to avoid conflict in order to keep the peace. That can be useful, and it is often necessary. But I am talking about learning how to face the conflict, stand your ground, argue vigorously, and still be friends when it is all over. Obviously, there is no secret formula, and some people are just not going to be reasonable. Even so, here are couple of quick tips that will help improve your discussions with people who disagree with you.
1. Never let it become about winning the argument.
If you go into an argument determined to "win" at any cost, you have already lost.
2. Never reduce the other person to his/her point of view.
It is important to always remember that you are talking to a person, not arguing with an idea in a vacuum. Not all ideas or points of view deserve equal respect, but all people do.
In a culture where more and more people seem to be adopting the immature notion that disagreement = hate, the ability to disagree but stay friends is a skill that I want to teach and model for my children. It may sound cliché', but there is a big difference between disagreeing and being disagreeable. What is more, if you can learn how to disagree and still be friends, you can actually cultivate a friendship with someone with whom you deeply disagree. How can that be? Because you are extending to them a level of respect and value for them as a human being that we all long for, but rarely receive. You are actually following the example and teachings of Jesus, who said, "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" (Mt 5:46-47). I don't think it would be a stretch to think he might also have said, "Why do you think yourself virtuous for being a friend to those who agree with you? Doesn't everyone do that?"