The saying “pick your battles” has come to be many people’s approach to arguments. Whenever there is a difference of opinion, the immediate question becomes, “Is this really worth it?” Standing by any given view could mean engaging in an argument. That argument can easily go nowhere and just turn into a fight. Soon enough, everyone has wasted their time in a pointless altercation. Keeping the opinion quiet would save time and spare everyone from the headache of it all.
In this way, it can appear that rarely is anything worth arguing. Even if one does deem something to be worth the time of engaging, they are often met with close-minded refusal or outright hostility from everyone else. Disagreement of any sort seems to be a useless and unproductive time suck.
This should not be the only way we view arguments. Disagreement holds a negative connotation tied to foolish hostility that holds back society while agreement is regarded as what drives us forward. However, between the two, disagreement is by far the more powerful tool for progress. While agreement is necessary to implement change, it is disagreement that sparks it in the first place. A perfectly harmonious society, free from disagreement, is only possible if it is also devoid of unique thoughts. If individuals are unwilling to question those around them, progress would cease. Without disagreement, society would be stuck, doomed to never grow or change.
Despite its necessity for progression, disagreement has gained a bad reputation. The vast majority of arguments are close-minded, immature squabbles instead of civil debates. Stubbornness and hostility negate the productivity in disagreement, creating the perception of it today. Engaging with anyone who disagrees with you appears to be a fruitless waste of time. Debates devolve rapidly as no one considers the merits of other’s arguments due to everyone being completely confident in their own view.
Often this leads to avoidance of all disagreement. Fear of senseless bickering leads to shutting down at the first sign of conflicting opinions. However, the way to combat the lack of civil practices and respect in arguments is not to refuse engagement altogether. The decline of productive debates is only accentuated by those unwilling to argue. We should not choose to flee from battles that look difficult, but rather approach them differently.
The productivity of any disagreement does not come from proving oneself right. Contrastingly, those who completely “win” an honest debate retain their starting opinion and views, meaning they gain less than those who revise their position. Pride pushes us to desire to be right, but it also blinds us from other views and restricts our ability to grow. In order to truly gain from disagreements, we need to continuously acknowledge the possibility that we are wrong. When we do that, we open ourselves to the opinions of others which, in turn, allows our debates to be productive. Civil disagreement can only occur when one remains open-minded. It is when we limit ourselves strictly to our current view that arguments devolve and we gain nothing.