In my opinion, debating and disagreeing intellectually serve two different purposes. Debates and disagreements can focus on a wide range of topics, but the act of executing and participating in both conversations differentiates them. And I believe it is important to converse with people who disagree with you – not merely to debate with them, but to hear another side to the story and challenge your perspectives.
Let’s start with debates. I consider a debate an argument between two or more parties where the goal is to win and only one side comes out on top. In my mind, debates are timed sessions with moderators, in which the parties argue a topic within a time frame using a clear list of points. This standard necessitates a win-lose situation; thereby limiting participants’ arguments and their opportunity to truly think about and analyze the issue.
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On the other hand, I believe intellectual disagreement requires two or more parties to converse and engage in conversation that includes deep thought. This type of discussion allows for growth and a better understanding of new perspectives and opinions. There is no time limit and conversations are free-flowing. Discussions where disagreements are present allow for shared thoughts, opinions, and individual perspectives. Intellectual disagreements challenge your views and critical thinking on any topic, allowing you to see other perspectives.
Disagreements are inevitable. They happen every day, whether they are intentional. There will always be someone who disagrees with your opinions in face-to-face conversations, over the phone, and even on social media. And more importantly, disagreements can occur between anyone – friends, family, significant others, strangers, co-workers.
It is important to talk with people who disagree with you to push you into thinking about an issue from all perspectives and see all sides. You may have certain opinions that will not necessarily change, but it can be beneficial to talk to people with whom you do not see eye-to-eye. In fact, I encourage you to have discussions with people who do not share the same opinions as you because it will allow you to think critically about an issue and hear out another’s perspective.
When we disagree, we become critical about the issue in focus, as well as our own opinions, prompting us to ask questions such as “Why do I think that? How has my opinion changed or not changed? What has influenced me to think that way about this issue?” Disagreeing helps challenge viewpoints and opinions, which strengthens our ability to become well-rounded thinkers. Disagreements between people become a place to learn about the various ways to think about an issue.
Everyone has different ways of thinking as a result of unique, individual experiences, which is why there will always be disagreements. It is worthwhile for everyone to talk to people who disagree because disagreement allows us to ask questions and encourages us to think more deeply about a certain topic. Without disagreements, there would be no individualism. Disagreeing makes us who we are, and what good would it be to always talk but never disagree?
After all, we can’t always be on the same page.
Sara Kim graduated with a B.A. in Journalism and a double minor in Health Policy and Management and Asian American Studies from Ithaca College. She currently works as an Event Coordinator at a non-profit. In her free time, she enjoys working out, reading, watching movies, and cooking. Fun fact: as a foodie, she loves to try new foods and travel to new places.