You can disagree without being disagreeable.

This has always been one of my firm beliefs, and it’s something I’ve always tried to live by. It breaks my heart that it’s a practice that seems to be getting less and less common every day – and in everyday matters, not just hot-button topics like religion and politics. Still, we’ve had more than our fair share lately of evidence in that last category.

That’s why an experience I had last week was so refreshing and reassuring. It renewed my faith in people, it gave me hope for the future, and it reminded me that it’s everyday people – family, friends, and the people around us – who really matter, and who make the biggest difference in our lives.

I was at a neighbor’s house for a get-together with some of the other women in our neighborhood. We talked a lot about a number of different subjects, but late in the evening the conversation turned to the presidential election that took place two nights earlier.

It was obvious right away that not everyone shared the same view of the candidates, their political parties, or anything else related to the election. Some strong opinions and serious disagreements were expressed, regarding both general and specific issues. And yet, everyone stayed respectful and courteous toward each other. We listened to what each other had to say. We accepted everyone’s right to their own opinion, whether we agreed with it or not. And we always came back to common ground and universal beliefs. We talked – in positive terms, I might add – about our hopes for the future. About the desires we have for ourselves, for our families, for our country, and for the world.

I, like many others, have felt totally drained by the whole campaign and all the anger, accusations, and negativity it generated, which seemed to be worse this year than ever before. But after the time I spent with my neighbors, I’m feeling renewed and refreshed. And in the week since the election, I am heartened by the fact that our top politicians – the ones who have seemed like mortal enemies throughout the campaign – are all talking about unity, about working together, and about supporting each other as they  get back to the work of leading and governing, instead of campaigning and fighting.

I hope they mean what they say, and that they’ll be true to their words. I don’t expect them to start agreeing on everything. In fact, it’s a healthier and more productive environment when they don’t. But I’d like to see them learn to disagree without being disagreeable. I’d like to see that in us all.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on November 17, 2016.
©Betty Liedtke, 2016

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