Agreeing to disagree

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by Hobo, Apr 6, 2015.

  1. Hobo


    Alright, so this is a bit of an odd question... to what degree do you guys agree to disagree on something with friends who have wildly different opinions? Are there certain subjects that are deal breakers?

    I was talking to my cousin about his issues with one of his fundamentalist Christian friends bringing up her voting against gay marriage in the context of a discussion of how he is kind of pushy about getting other people to reconsider their views on various things when he doesn't seem to extend the same courtesy to other people trying to change his mind.

    For context, the guy is gay and has been with his boyfriend for nearly 20 years now, and they're considered de-facto partners (I think this is comparable to common-law marriage in the US, but I'm not sure). He is also sort of anti-marriage in general and doesn't want to get married himself, but supports gay marriage because 'obviously marriage isn't going to stop any time soon and we deserve equality in the meanwhile'.

    From what he told me, her point was that if he expects her to at least give some thought to thinking about things in a different way, then he should have also thought about agreeing with her that gay marriage diminishes straight marriage somehow. He said that's different because it's directly applicable to him in a way their previous debates weren't (being gay and basically married) and also suggests negative things about gay relationships in general so there was no way he could possibly ever come close to agreeing with that. She said that he just refuses to agree to disagree and can't claim to be married given his opinions on marriage, and I guess the conversation ended on a sour note.

    Kind of inane, I guess, but what do you all think? I'm sorry about my storytelling, I'm kind of a waffler! I can't say I've noticed any issues with him not keeping an open mind when we talk about stuff, but at the same time our opinions on these sorts of issues are pretty similar, so maybe that's why? He's kind of argumentative and doesn't like the idea of agreeing to disagree on every subject without any sort of discussion, but not talking about issues seems to be this woman's strategy for dealing with friends who are far more left-leaning than her. My general feeling is that he might need to rein in his argumentative side for the sake of maintaining this friendship, but at the same time I feel like claiming that gay marriage ruins straight marriage somehow is incredibly disrespectful to him and his relationship and I would probably be reevaluating my friendship with her to begin with.
  2. kmoss

    kmoss whoops

    Possibly part of the issue is largely because her thoughts on gay marriage are likely political/religious - which, no matter how many times someone says "my ___ is very personal to me" - is still, I feel, a much more abstract stance on gay marriage than he would have.

    I know I'm kind of in a similar bandwagon, where I do not particularly want to get married, but at the same time, I like having the option. I mean, say we made velcro shoes illegal. True, I don't wear velcro shoes. But what if I wanted velcro shoes? Now some guy is telling me I can't have velcro shoes? Screw that guy. I know a lot of people who have velcro shoes. What are they gonna wear now? (Ok, it's a really weird analogy. But now I'm kind of pissed at the imaginary guy telling me I can't wear velcro shoes.)

    I mean, far be it from me to meddle in affairs of religion (I am pretty darn atheist), but I have a friend who is of one of the Christian denominations where she doesn't cut her hair and has to wear skirts, and she was the one who took aside another friend (who is from a liberal family and a fairly liberal lutheran denomination) to get her to be ok with the fact that I had just come out to them both. I think this year it came up in conversation that "she didn't approve of the lifestyle" and when I asked her about it later, she quoted scripture a bit, but we are still really good friends. We've known each other for something like 5 years. (she is a pretty cool person)

    I guess it's all about finding a balance on what you find important. If I push her on the gay marriage/lifestyle vs religion deal, I know I will lose her as a friend. I happen to value that friendship a lot. But she also knows that if she starts leaving pamphlets and pushing me on accepting christ and putting away the things that make me me, she will lose me as a friend. This has been pretty easy, actually, because we know each other pretty well, and we respect each other a lot. We've both been through some shit, we've both had 4 am talks about life.

    The important thing is that we both make compromises. I respect that she has her reasons for believing the things she does. She respects that I have my reasons for being the type of person I am.

    I kind of veered from the point here, but I guess, my closing thing re: your friends would be that for her, it's something she does genuinely have the choice to put aside and be done with, and for lgbtq people, it's something we've been thinking about for years and might never be totally done with, and that's not our choice. So he does kind of have a bigger stake in this. My solution would probably be to try to mediate, but I also have a sick obsession with mediating conflicting points of view.

    Also I probably don't have any real point that is a deal breaker. If you believe something I think is really fucked up, I'm going to ask a hell of a lot of questions, and if you act like an adult about it, then we're probably still cool.

    #Well, neo-naziism might be a deal breaker #It would be interesting to talk to a neo-nazi #but I have a feeling it would also be incredibly disappointing.
  3. Hobo


    Haha, it's actually kind of funny you mention neo-nazis, because his parents and most of our extended family are exactly that, with the added bonus of being traditionalist Catholics. Sort of a weird combo. Luckily, I've never really known them due to my mother being disowned long before I was born (being disowned is a tradition in our family), but he had to grow up with it and I get the impression that this is probably why he might get pushier with people closer to that side of the fence? Hard to say, I can definitely understand where you're coming from here, though. I think he has a friend who is like that with the 'I don't approve of the gay lifestyle' thing and that frustrates him but they're still friends regardless (from what I understand though, they're less close now because the friend said it to their mutual friends behind my cousin's back for years without ever mentioning it to my cousin)? I'm not really sure what's different about this particular friendship, it's possible it's just one of those tip of the iceberg sort of deals and they're just really dysfunctional friends to begin with. I might try asking him why his reaction is so different between his two friends.
  4. kmoss

    kmoss whoops

    ((this has nothing to do with this conversation but oh my god your icon it is amazing))

    It's very possible that he's a little tougher on her just because they aren't brilliant besties. I mean, I probably wouldn't throw myself in front of a train for my friend, but I would probably throw someone else. Most other people... *shrug*
    So he could be in the situation where he's a bit more sensitive to her and kind of...reacting more strongly to things that offer the option for them to not be friends anymore? It probably isn't a conscious decision, but asking him would probably help, too.
  5. seebs

    seebs Benevolent Dictator

    I was really confused because this looked like a conversation between one person because icons.
    • Like x 2
  6. Aurora

    Aurora Very freckly member

    I'm a bit lost. She doesn't want to talk about issues but has had this big discussion and wants him to consider another option?
  7. Elaienar

    Elaienar "sorta spooky"

    I've gotten used to disagreeing on at least two important subjects with pretty much anyone I interact with, and even more with people I'm close to, so I don't really consider other people's opinions to be deal-breakers. The only thing that makes me want to bail is when someone thinks that I should be considerate of their feelings but they don't have to return the favour. (Possibly similar to your cousin's friend: you want me to re-examine my opinions because you don't like them, but you won't re-examine yours if I don't like them?) But this is less because of the specific opinions involved and more because it represents, to me, an imbalance in the relationship.

    As far as agreeing to disagree ... I've only had it come that far a few times. I tend to avoid subjects that might cause conflict.
    • Like x 1
  8. Lissiel

    Lissiel Dreaming dead

    Sort of tangental, but regarding the 'refuses to consider my beliefs' thing? I know I tend to be bad about this, but its REALLY frustrating o have so many conversations devolve into "i feel this way because scripture says so. Scripture matters because its how we know what God wants." Then either "god matters cause he'll spank you if you do stuff he doesnt like" or "god matters because he defines right-and-wrong", with the rider that both of them come down to "i know god even exists because FAITH, which is a personal belief you hold despite having no empirical reason to hold it."

    Im always like ... So your argument
    is basically "its wrong cause I sorta feel like its probably wrong for basically no reason?" Persuasive!

    /edit: want to point out that I dont have anything against faith or religious convictions or anything, just specifically this line of reasoning in this context.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2015
  9. Aurora

    Aurora Very freckly member

    I lost a friendship because the friend got very religious and nearly everything went down the path of "What God believes". Which got very boring fast.
  10. Emma

    Emma Your resident resident

    Yeah. This.
  11. Hobo


    Vague update time! Feels kind of weird airing my cousin's friendship issues out here, but I am curious about how other people would take this stuff.

    Turns out that I was kinda right, it's different between this friend (we'll call her X) and his other friend who 'doesn't agree with that lifestyle' (Y). Y has been my cousin's friend since they were in high school and was supportive when he came out and all that kind of stuff, so when my cousin heard from mutual friends that the guy would bring up that he doesn't agree with homosexuality a lot of the time when my cousin wasn't around, he was pissed and sort of distanced himself a bit, but they're still friends because of that history (Y isn't religiously inclined at all either, so that might also have something to do with it). X, on the other hand, is a newer friend and online only, and while they're fairly close, they're also... really dysfunctional and probably better off not being friends, if what my cousin has said is at all accurate.

    There's probably too much stuff to really go into here, but the TL;DR version is that she believes he's constantly trying to manipulate her (not sexually, just via opinions along the lines of 'you should think about trying to use they/them pronouns instead of it since your friend has come out as NB and prefers that'... she thinks that he wants to make her into a mini-him), and he believes she's constantly judging him based on his age/sex (she's early/mid 20s, he's late 30s) but especially on his sexuality. Like I mentioned above, he's pretty argumentative and doesn't like to ignore issues, while she prefers to be (her words) an ostrich, i.e. burying her head in the sand to deal with disagreements.

    Apparently they had a fight tonight over them being rude to each other. He was trying to talk about issues with 'God wants 1 man + 1 woman marriages only' by referring to David and Solomon, while she was saying it doesn't count because it's the OT and also he needed to do... some sort of game thing for her. She reminded him 3 times in a minute to do the thing with more urgency when he was already doing it, and he felt she was being rude so he said something along the lines of 'I'm doing the thing, keep your tits on'. Basically a rude statement. She was really upset by this (she was nagging in order to turn the conversation away from religious stuff) and he said that turnabout is fair play, so now she thinks that he is emotionally abusing her and that he would be willing to punch her in the face if they were in the same room and she was unintentionally rude to him (???).

    I'll be honest, the whole thing sounds completely ridiculous to me and I'm not really sure why they're friends? Also that latest fight just sounds ridiculously immature. I think her justification for feeling like he would punch her was that if he was OK with hurting her with that 'keep your tits on' statement, who knows where he would draw the line? Personally, I feel like the dealbreaker line has been passed when you seem to believe that your friend would assault you over a mild and unintentionally rude statement. They both need new friends, IMO.

    And to answer some questions...

    She was using that to argue against his idea that instead of ignoring things, she should be open to discussing them and basically keeping an open mind about stuff. Her argument was that ignoring is better and that he is a hypocrite because he wants her to change her opinions about trans people/pronouns/whatever, but won't change his own opinions about gay marriage/homosexuality being a sin. He was mad because he felt she was missing the point because rethinking those things would be similar to telling her to rethink her religion because it's awful and dumb and also mad at her for bringing up that she actually votes against gay marriage, while she was mad at him for missing the point because he asked her to bring up an example of when he refused to change his opinion and it shouldn't matter if it was a topic closely related to his identity because he refused to change it.

    From what he's told me, he does try and keep an open mind about her opinions, but because her strategy for dealing with less conservative friends is not talking about things, there's only been one topic that's come up that ISN'T specifically 'being gay is sinful' or 'gay marriage is wrong', and he eventually ended up admitting she was 100% right about that topic. So I think it might just be a perception that he is less open minded than he expects her to be, because most of the time he won't keep an open mind is when she is suggesting that his identity is bad or wrong in some way? He thinks that her believing he should be open minded about homosexuality being sinful is like him believing she should be open minded about religion being pointless, he thinks (accurately, IMO) that that would be disrespectful of her so he doesn't do it.

    For accuracy's sake, though, I should probably mention that I'm pretty sure the gay = sin stuff comes up VERY rarely.
    • Like x 1
  12. Emma

    Emma Your resident resident

    That definitely sounds like a dysfunctional relationship, and if I were your cousin I'd just let this one die out. Would you really want to be friends with something who believes that you'd punch them in the face because you'd made a rude comment this one time?
  13. Elaienar

    Elaienar "sorta spooky"

    Huh. Never thought about it that way, but that makes sense. When something like religion or sexuality is an important part of your identity, asking someone to reconsider it is like asking them to reconsider ... I don't know, having arms, or something.
    • Like x 1
  14. Aurora

    Aurora Very freckly member

    I'm with Emma, this sounds like a friendship that's not working for either, just let it die.

    I have reconsidered my religion, which led to me changing it. I don't see why something being part of your identity should make it immune from reconsideration, or criticism. I've reconsidered my sexuality, although after some introspection I decided my first conclusion was right.
    And, I note that many people have suggested, in various ways, that I consider joining their religion, so I think that expecting people to reconsider their religion is pretty common.
    • Like x 1
  15. Vacuum Energy

    Vacuum Energy waterwheel on the stream of entropy

    I think Paul Graham on identity is a helpful pointer here (although I should note that there is a bit of memetic danger in that link; if you decide that it might be a good idea to try discarding labels read this first.)
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2015
    • Like x 1
  16. Elaienar

    Elaienar "sorta spooky"

    I'd say there's a difference between reconsidering your own identity and telling someone else to reconsider theirs. And I think there is some feeling (I definitely have it) that trying to convert people is rude, to the point where some churches spend considerable effort trying to get people over that feeling. One youth group I know dropped a vanload of teens off in front of a grocery store with instructions to witness to the people there - I think maybe they even had a quota per teen? - partly with the reasoning that it would make it easier for them to try to convert people later on. So at least some people have to work pretty hard to get to the point where they can suggest that someone else reconsider their religion.

    @Vacuum Energy Those were both interesting reads!
    • Like x 1
  17. Aurora

    Aurora Very freckly member

    Sure. And there are definitely places and ways where it is rude to do that. But the same is true of demanding that someone reconsider anything, no matter how unconnected to identity, such as dish detergent.

    Obviously, for the sake of social peace, it's not a good idea to spend one's social events telling people to reconsider their religion, or sexuality: the vast majority of time people have thought about these issues and currently are at peace with their conclusion for reasons they currently regard as accurate. So telling someone else that they have to reconsider is likely to sound arrogant: "Are you implying that I never thought about this? That I don't know my own mind?"
    This is not so likely to be true of more fleeting questions of life, such as "How should I vote in this forthcoming referendum?"

    On thinking about it, maybe the difference is that religion/sexuality are areas that do tend to be dependent on introspection/revelation (eg if I look at someone who is of a type I thought I never was attracted to, and I catch myself thinking "hmm, wouldn't mind finding this one in my Christmas stocking" then I just had a revelation), so logic and debate is generally less useful there. While referendum questions, one can think that X is a great idea, but also that it would be a bad thing to try to legally force people to do X, for all sorts of reasons (eg X is only good if people choose it freely, or the costs of coercion would be too high.)
    • Like x 2
  18. seebs

    seebs Benevolent Dictator

    My experience has been that a lot of the time, people who want me to "keep an open mind" on a topic are insulting because they want me to, but they won't themselves.

    Like, if you want me to seriously consider your contention that gay sex is bad, I want to see some evidence that you will consider my contention that it isn't. Otherwise, you're not really looking for an open-mind, you're just using that as a proxy for "stop disagreeing with me". I often see people who don't consider anything but converting to their point of view evidence of "keeping an open mind".
    • Like x 3
  19. Lissa Lysik'an

    Lissa Lysik'an Dragon-loving Faerie

    I have never had anyone tell me "keep an open mind" who was not themselves refusing to. Mostly in relation to "science is bad, faith in person X is much more reliable" where person X was some anti-science magical cure person/group advocating something that failed even the simplest logic tests.
    I don't discuss religion, so that has probably saved me from meeting others.
  20. aaaaaargh

    aaaaaargh New Member

    Tim Minchin said that if you open your mind too much, your brain falls out.
    • Like x 2
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice