My wife and I have disagreed on a number of issues over nearly 41 years of marriage. Usually she’s right, but that doesn’t stop me from pushing for my point of view on occasion. I believe one of the reasons we are still married is that we’ve learned to respect our partner’s opinion, in part because sometimes one of us is right and one of us isn’t. That understanding requires a certain amount of humility and recognition that it is usually much less painful to acknowledge a bad opinion than it is to keep believing it when it’s wrong.
We follow other good practices that include things like refraining from name calling, bad language, or other forms of personal attack. I don’t think we ever formally agreed to these rules; we just follow them because they seem important to maintaining a relationship we both treasure. My parents set a good example for me by observing similar rules, and I think the same was true for my wife’s parents, who have been married for more than 60 years.
Marriage is a special relationship, but it has helped teach me to value constructive disagreement in friendships and work relationships as well. I rely on people to point out problems or mistakes, and I’m puzzled when others fail to do so. Healthy relationships, in my opinion, require the ability to question or disagree, although how it is done can have a powerful influence on results.
Questioning someone’s intelligence, integrity, or parentage is usually not the right approach to constructive disagreement and neither is a pointed accusation based on opinion rather than fact. I certainly understand responding emotionally to threats or perceived slights, but I also give myself some time to think about the situation before making a public reaction. Usually, my negative perception of another’s intentions is either wrong or disproportionate. Taking the time to understand the situation before making accusations usually leads to a better outcome.
The failure to seek a constructive resolution to disagreement often leads to mutually destructive results for all parties to the dispute. The vote over whether to dissolve the City of Damascus and all that has led up to it is a good example of a monumental waste of resources because people were unwilling to pursue a more rational course. Expensive litigation is another example, although some litigants appear to be motivated more by greed or revenge than by any desire to solve a problem.
I hope anyone with sincere concerns about city issues will take the time to check out the facts and then raise questions if they are warranted. I know it is much easier to simply express an opinion without bothering to investigate or to lash out when we feel we’ve been wronged. Taking the path of least resistance, in these cases, usually leads to broken relationships and expensive solutions.