We don’t have to agree on everything to be friends. As the brilliant Morgan Freeman once said, “Just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean I hate you. We need to relearn that in our society.” Let’s talk about how.
We Don’t Have to Agree on Everything to Be Friends
Why do we have such a problem with people expressing different opinions than us? From screaming matches during family dinners to comment wars on social media, we get super riled up anytime someone dares to disagree with us. The more intense the debate, the bigger the fall out. I have friends who haven’t spoken to family members since the 2016 election!
The sad part? All that arguing gets you nowhere fast, as even science says you’re unlikely to change someone’s opinions. Wouldn’t it be better to learn how to accept each other’s different viewpoints and find a way to coexist in harmony?
I know it’s hard, especially when you’re disagreeing over something monumentally important to you, like basic human rights or politics. Let’s talk about how to handle differences of opinions that you can live with, then we’ll discuss the deeper issues.
How to disagree and still be friends
I’d like to start with a quote that I really love, by Arthur Forman. He says, “Not everyone thinks the way you think, knows the things you know, believes the things you believe, nor acts the way you would act. Remember this and you will go a long way in getting along with people.”
For the most part, we tend to choose friends that align pretty close to our most important ideals. For example, someone who believes in, say animal rights, wouldn’t choose a fur trader for a friend. Likewise, someone who feels strongly about women’s rights wouldn’t choose a misogynist BFF.
However, it’s almost impossible to find someone who agrees with us on every single thing. We’d live a very lonely existence if “complete and total agreement on everything” was our criteria for friendship. So, how do you navigate the issues where you don’t see eye to eye? Well, you have two options, really.
The first choice is, of course, to just agree to disagree and leave it at that. If you feel like you can’t discuss a topic without becoming heated and angry with each other, then mutually agree that said topic is off limits.
On the other hand, if you’re both fairly rational people who can debate without getting angry or emotional, then by all means, discuss the topic. You may just learn something new. A friend shared a story with me about how she loved debating religion- typically a taboo subject- with another friend.
“He was Christian, and I was Wiccan,” she said. “We couldn’t possibly believe in more different things, yet we had wonderful philosophical discussions for hours. No one ever raised their voice, and we never went away angry. In the end, we both had a better understanding of different faiths.”
See, that’s the beautiful thing about having an open and respectful discussion with someone who thinks differently than you! You both learn so much more about where others are coming from. Understanding leads to tolerance, and that’s something we need a lot more of in this world right now.
What about the major disagreements?
While the entire point of this post is to discuss how we don’t have to agree on everything to be friends, some differences are too overpowering to ignore. So, let’s talk about what to do when major disagreements come between you and your friends.
Accepting different opinions and respectfully disagreeing on the smaller things- yes, even on religion- isn’t terribly hard. What do we do when we can’t agree on the things that are most important to us, though? For example, what do you do if you discover that your friend is secretly a racist?
We can go back to the first possibility above and choose not to discuss it, but we still know deep down that this person feels something that is completely alien and even offensive to us. How do we cope with that? How do we justify remaining friends with someone who holds values that are 100% opposite of our own?
In that case, you’ll have to decide for yourself if your feelings on a topic matter more than a friendship. Sometimes, the answer is yes, and that’s okay. As therapist Deborah Duley, tells HuffPost. “We outgrow each other sometimes. It’s normal and a natural progression as we continue to grow and change as people.”
As for how to end the friendship, Duley says, ““I don’t know if it’s always necessary to let the friend know that you want to break up with them. A slow decline in seeking them out is oftentimes enough for them to get the message.”
In other words, there’s really no reason to call her up and say, “I can’t be friends with you because you believe in something that I think is vile.” Literally the only reason you’d do that is if you’re rearing for a fight.
Yes, we all have values so important to us that we can’t possibly be friends with someone who believes the opposite.
Amazed at the Assumptions says
To suggest that somehow opposing political viewpoints mean an automatic end to a friendship is as frustrating as the many assumptions that go along with it. Don’t agree? Must be racist/misogynistic/greedy/fill in the blank with whatever your worst perception of the opposing party’s representation. True friends will not let politics change the lens through which they view each other.
Celisa Ellis says
wow that’s what you got out of that? Hum
Ken Carman says
Interesting. In Communications Theory it’s called the “disagreeable disagreer.” I do think severe partisanship and combining religion with social and political opinion have contributed to this in a big way. The idea that if someone is evil if they disagree, must be possessed by some demon or Satan, can not disagree and be just as grounded opinion-wise as you is basically fundamentalistic, IMO. That doesn’t necessarily mean ALL fundamentalists, but you see in in the bin Ladens, the Jimmy Jones, even the McVeighs to some extent. Add on to this the horrific stance that the ends justify the means, no matter how horrid the means may be. Shooting up a clinic, murdering personnel: no matter how terrible one thinks what they do may be, is no more justified than what one demonizes. When everything is considering like a war then that contributes too. The soldiers justify burning the village, the insurgent justifies terrorizing the village and killing them too. Walking into a Knoxville church and murdering members.
This really isn’t left, right, Christian, Muslim, etc. It’s a mindset that finds excuses in fanaticism, and justification from the most extreme take on faith.
Debbie Senesac says
I really like this topic, I think it’s very timely. But you’re coping strategies I find lacking and even judgemental. Maybe I am more invested emotionally in my relationships but true change can happen between polar opposite friends and It’s a good thing, both ways. By encouraging herding of like viewpoints, we will get farther away from having any informal disagreements and any constructive conversations regarding these differences. Encouraging judgement to be passed on the opposite view with no calls for self-evaluation is bad advice. Emphasis to live in harmony should focus on empathy to understand another’s views, compassion to accept their views, and self-evaluation to either adapt or confirm your current view.
I love this and agree! So very true ❤
LONNIE LEFEAVERS says
Talk about How <–÷ thats the Problem. Them & us, them & them. If you can't communicate, whats the Point. If ALL White girls; look STR8 INTI their BF, Husbands, Or Pimp's eyes and SAY ." Beyter put your eyes back in your head br I slap the taste outya mouth, " they'll get a Nose broke. Just think (serious Question?) Look straight in eyes, get in face to show serious. Then get DECKED! No communication between race, and you ppl don't see it happenin' don't know it.. AND f your white, you knod and FONT GET INVOLVED. Paythetic excuse for a country yhat was white citizen only, with Christian Politicians ONLY (Its written) and finally let Other Race's IN AS CITIZENS. No imigration, school for communication Fools! Testing my theory in Closed Study has2 include wht. Blk. (Blk. Blk) & blk wht, subjects. Hint: two males? Listen for the words Get Out My Face (desegrigtion 1974 & 1976. Two diff. Arguements.. Live and learn
Carolyn Egeli-Patterson says
So, when do you suppose the shift began, from celebrating the uniqueness of one another’s spirit, to feeling as if it was most important to being right, that anyone who disagreed with us was signaling we were less than perfect? I have ceased discussing, with the exception of those closest in my circle, religion or politics. While I am aware of how most in my circle feel about a host of topics, for the sake of civility, I avoid the elephant(s) in the room. Sad commentary that is. I would love to feel safe enough to express my opinion and hear others in turn share theirs.
Very useful. Have learnt a lot. Thanks for sharing.
Creative Healthy Family says
Richard Russo says
true. options can be against prejudices on anything. I stay away from Ignorance. I stay away from immaturity.
Yes I so ageee with all the points in this post. Agree to disagree and move on.
Rich Pulin says
In 2016, it was the Clinton followers that were so adamant!
Unbeknownst to me, one friend and 2 cousins are so
angry that I like and support Trump, that they won’t speak
JoAnn Tobey says
My son and his BFF have completely opposite political views yet they have been close since Kindergarten. They are entering their final years of college soon. They CAN discuss politics and have learned to be respectful to each other. It’s a beautiful thing. The friend’s mom happens to be my BFF. Fun how that worked out! I have absolutely no idea what her political leanings are because she and I have never discussed them. I don’t know if she and her son are in agreement or not, but I don’t care. She’s an incredible human being, I love her dearly, and we’ve never missed discussing politics in all these years!
Totally disagree with not letting your friend know… Worst advice ever. If you have a really important friendship and suddenly (or gradually) your very good friend backs away from meeting up, and just gives an excuse of getting busy or no reason at all, that leaves the person who’s been ditched in the dark. There’s no respect in that situation for the friendship you’ve built over time. An open conversation, not going in-depth about the topic you disagree on, but instead saying this is why I feel like we can’t hang out and I feel that it’s too difficult, allows for an open conversation that could In turn save the friendship through an understanding of how important you are to one another. It doesn’t mean having to change your view to remain friends, but that conversation will have the opportunity to keep the relationship going. If you still agree that it’s probably for the best you don’t hang out, yeah, it may hurt emotionally, but at least it’s clear to both of you and no-one’s left wondering. Not saying anything is hurtful, disrespectful, and passive aggressive. It’s so important to keep the communication lines open, even if you don’t like confrontation. Communication is key.
Janet Orr says
This was very engaging thank you! You gave me a lot to think about. 👍👏
Creative Healthy Family says
It depends on opinion of what? People who believe that young children deserve to be locked up in cages do not deserve any respect. People who believe that they are superior because they are white or straight do not deserve any respect. Now if we’re talking about flavors of ice cream or NY vs Italian Cheesecake I can agree with you.
Creative Healthy Family says
I agree. There are some limits. Thank you for your comment.