20 April, 2011  |   9 Comments

Healing from Disagreement

I believe there is a continuum of how much disagreement each person can handle.


I grew up in a high-conflict household. I was yelled at, berated and argued with from 10 to 16. I was told I was wrong and stupid, always. I work very hard not to let that idea win. Every day, I work at that.

So when I say,
“This is cool.”

And someone says,
“That is certainly NOT COOL and here are five reasons why and you are WRONG WRONG WRONG,”
it doesn’t feel to me like just friendly debate, it feels like trolling. It feels like hatred. It triggers all my old feelings of defense and teeth grinding.

This is not to say that the differing opinion is hatred.
And hell no, it is not trolling.
It’s disagreement.
Disagreement just happens to be a high-sensitivity trigger for me.


Back a few years ago, before we had access to everyone we ever knew and all of their ideas, disagreement had a different place. Yes, there were still the same people who thrived on debate. Those people who relished sparring and matching wits. But for the most part, we kept our opinions private. Especially opinions concerning religion, politics, child-rearing and lifestyle.

Disagreements with these big topics were handled privately, rarely.

But now, in this digital age, we share our thrill about an election on Facebook and people come out of every nook and corner of your past to tell you how wrong you are and make you defend it.

Sure, there’s something to be said about the broadening of ideas and input being a good thing, but emotionally? I’m not prepared for this. We haven’t been properly trained in critical thinking in a way that allows us to separate disagreement with an idea from rejection of us.

When people we like or respect disagree with us, it still feels crappy.


So ow! Disagreement!
If you’re a tender or damaged heart like me, how do you heal?

Draw the line.

Do you delete disagreeable comments?
Do you leave comments up and respond via email?
Does your site encourage dissenting opinions?

Just decide where you are on the public argument and draw a line.
Consider posting that line in your comment policy or on your About page.

Having a “policy” in place can leave your heart less open for bruising.

Take it offline.

Disagreements handled in public rarely turn out well.

If you have an even lower disagreement threshold than I do, consider taking comments off your site.
(I won’t judge.)

Agree, a little.

Find a point. Find any point that you can concede.
Yep, I get it,
I don’t want to pay more taxes either,
I want to know that by behaving well, there is an eternal reward,
I love my children too.

By finding a nugget in each piece of disagreement that we can agree with, we can move through the semantics to a better understanding of our shared worldspace.


This one is tough for me. But by acknowledging it privately, with the people it concerns so that I can move through, I am able to tolerate a little more dissent in my life.

Any tips for how you handled disagreement on your site are appreciated!

9 thoughts on “Healing from Disagreement

  1. 1
    Amber says:

    I don’t handle it. I shriek and hide from it, or I completely subvert my own opinion for the sake of the one who is disagreeing with me. I like your way much better!

  2. 2
    Michele says:

    I got into an disagreement/argument with my brother-in-law on my husbands side on FB. Not my most shining moment; I was so utterly and completely offended by comments he made that I wrote a response in the heat of the moment. He and I and a few others when back and forth for a while until I decided that we would have to save any future “debate” for just the two of us. We agreed to message each other if we felt the need to, but determined that arguing publicly was tacky and unnecessary. Thank you for sharing your thoughts – I really, really appreciate it!!

  3. 3
    Angella says:

    The few disagreements that have arisen from my site have been mainly from “real life” family and friends. Sigh.

  4. 4
    Michelle says:

    I am also uncomfortable with disagreement. My preferred method for dealing with conflict in real life is avoidance and then withdrawal if I can’t avoid it completely. So online, I hold back and self-censor myself to avoid anything controversial. Is that the most authentic way to handle conflict? Probably not.

    I manage the social media presence of my company, and sometimes we get negative feedback. We won’t delete a comment unless it’s profane or threatening. I ignore it if I can, or respond by thanking them for expressing their opinion. Just like you said, you can acknowledge their point of view without agreeing with them or escalating the conflict.

  5. 5

    […] Michelle:  I am also uncomfortable with d […]

  6. 6

    It is funny but one of the most valuable lessons i have learned about handling disagreement came from my son’s involvement in youth hockey. There was a spoken rule within the organization called the 24 hour rule. You were not allowed to discuss any issue, big or small, until 24 hours passed. I have adopted this rule in my life at large because I tend to have a short fuse and a big mouth. It truly has saved me from overreacting and the ensuing self humiliation. When we get not so nice comments I leave them for 24 hours, unless they are vicious then they come down immediately, I think about them during that time and then I make a decision as to how to respond. The mixed blessing of putting ourselves out there I guess.

  7. 7
    Ariel says:

    Oh MAN. I do not do well with disagreement. I’ve got super strict comment policies on all my websites that each quote this classic XKCD comic: http://xkcd.com/386/

    Cuz really, that’s what it all comes down to for me. Why waste your time with disagreements? We all have better things to do. Unless there’s harm being caused to someone (“I disagree with you dating a 12 year old…”) it just comes down to opinion and how you prioritize your time. I don’t prioritize my time to argue online, and I strongly discourage my readers from spending their time that way.

    I wrote a whole thing about my commenting policy over here: http://cultureconductor.com/2010/10/how-to-write-your-blog%E2%80%99s-comment-policy/

  8. 8

    […] Ariel:  Oh MAN. I do not do well with […]

  9. 9
    Kate says:

    I used to equate disagreement with dislike. They are vastly different. My FB profile is quite private; I’m not friends with people I don’t know or have only met once, and I weed people out regularly (old coworker whom I haven’t spoken to in four years? Delete!). The people I’m likely to get into some sort of debate with are people I know I can have a respectful exchange with. They might not share my opinion, but they aren’t going to tear me apart for what I believe in or what I do. That’s not to say I never encounter a snarky comment, because I do, so I try to ignore them. I tell myself that comments like that have way more to do with the person writing them than anything I’ve said.

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