HOW
TO BE HEARD
CHAPTER ONE – AGREEING
TO DISAGREE
A good argument: it
sounds like an oxymoron, but it needn’t be one. From a young age, we’re taught
that arguments are bad and disagreements are best avoided. In fact, arguments
are only bad when they’re unproductive. Learn to argue well and you’ll soon
realize that arguments are a meaningful part of life. They’re red flags that
signal something important to us is at stake. They should be engaged with, not
shut down. After all, arguments open up crucial communication pathways. Open
and respectful argument should be a cornerstone of every successful
relationship.
Learn to disagree
productively and you’ll see a positive change in your personal and professional
relationships. You’ll be less irritated by disagreements and meet them less
often. Most importantly, your world will expand as you learn to welcome and
appreciate the perspectives of others – even if you don’t always see eye to
eye. It’s okay to argue. Get comfortable doing it.
In March 2019, a
Twitter user uploaded a picture that showed a box of bagels sliced vertically
like a loaf of bread, rather than horizontally, as is traditional. The internet
promptly lost its collective mind. Replies to the viral tweet included “First of all, how dare you?” and “Who told you this was okay?” 
This disagreement
about the correct way to slice a bagel was light-hearted and low-stakes. Still,
it’s worth asking: Why did something so simple provoke such a heated
response? The answer is, it created anxiety and anxiety can trigger or
exacerbate disagreement. 
Anxiety arises when a
perspective that’s valuable to us is brought into conflict with a different
viewpoint. This anxiety is present in low-stakes disagreements, like whether a
bagel is better sliced vertically or horizontally. And it’s present in
high-stakes disagreements, like whether to vote for a left-leaning or right-leaning
political party. 
Anxiety is an
unpleasant emotion to experience. That’s why, when we experience something
angst-inducing, our impulse is to dismiss it or even attack it. That’s exactly
what many Twitter users did when they saw the offending bagels. But when we
refuse to thoughtfully engage with things that trigger our anxiety, we also
shut down the possibility for dialogue, understanding and growth. In short, we deny ourselves the opportunity
for productive disagreement.
There’s another
complicating factor at work here. Our anxieties are unique to us and they come
from a myriad of sources. In a disagreement, you and your opponent might be
bringing completely different anxieties to the same argument. That’s why it’s
helpful to divide argument-triggering anxieties into three broad categories.
Anxieties of the head are anxieties to do with information and rational
thought. Anxieties of the heart are concerned with emotion. Anxieties of the
hands center around what’s useful or practical.
Imagine the parents
of a twelve-year-old child. They’ve planned a night out, but their babysitter
cancels at the last minute. They can’t agree whether they should leave their
child at home or not. One partner says they don’t feel safe leaving their child
unsupervised at home. This partner is bringing anxieties of the heart to the
discussion. The other partner tries to close the argument by saying that, in
their state, it’s perfectly legal to leave a twelve-year-old child home alone.
But this tactic appeals to anxieties of the head. It can’t resolve an argument
triggered by anxieties of the heart.
In order to disagree
productively, we need to cultivate awareness of our own anxieties and what
triggers them, and exercise empathy in trying to understand the source of
others’ anxieties. Pay attention to the voices in your head.
Climate change, Vaccination,
Feminism, Religion; in 2019, discussion around hot-button topics like these
feels increasingly polarized. In public discourse and in private disagreements,
the middle ground is in short supply. The culprit? Cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance
occurs when you encounter a belief or behavior that contradicts your own
perspective. The further the conflicting perspective is from your own, the
greater the cognitive dissonance, and the anxiety you’re likely to feel as a
result. That’s when, in an effort to assuage this anxiety, the voices in your
head get to work. Broadly speaking, there are four types of voices that kick in
during conflict. Let’s look at the highly polarized debate around vaccinations
as an example. 
Let’s say you firmly
believe that mandatory vaccinations are a necessary public health measure. What
happens when you encounter someone who’s equally certain that parents shouldn’t
be forced to vaccinate their children? Because your views are diametrically
opposed, you’ll likely experience cognitive dissonance which, in turn, produces
anxiety.
At this point, your
thoughts could “speak” in the voice
of power. This is a voice that wants to win the argument by shutting it down
completely. It simply refuses to accept alternative viewpoints. In the
vaccination debate, the voice of power says, “Anti-vaxxers are completely wrong. End of story!”
Alternatively, your
thoughts could take the form of the voice of reason, which tries to win
arguments through evidence and reason. In the vaccination debate, the voice of
reason thinks, “Show me the evidence that
vaccines are harmful. I bet you can’t!”
Or, your thoughts could adopt the
voice of avoidance, which wants to steer clear of the discussion entirely. This
voice thinks simply, “Whatever. I’m
staying out of this!”
The problem with
these three voices? They shut down the disagreement rather than progressing it
in any way.
Luckily, there’s
another voice, the voice of possibility. This voice sees disagreement as a
beginning for dialogue. It seeks out new angles and perspectives. It might ask,
“Why do you feel that way?”
Using the voice of
possibility doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to accept your opponent’s
argument or change your viewpoint. But this voice has the potential to make
space for dialogue and understanding. So, get to know the voices in your head.
And when you hear the voice of possibility – listen to it!
To be continued……
Please
leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments box provided below.
Have
a fruitful day!
Olusola
Bodunrin is a graduate of Philosophy from the University of Ado-Ekiti. He is a
professional writer, he writes articles for publication and he anchors – ‘What
You Should Know’ on SHEGZSABLEZS’ blog.

‘What
You Should Know’ is a column that offers to educate and enlighten the public on
general falsehood and myths.

Oluwole Olusanya
Oluwole Olusanya is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of one of the fastest-growing lifestyle and entertainment website in the country. He is a banker, writer, blogger, public affairs analyst and a tax consultant. He anchors Trending Topics on SHEFFA where he shares his thoughts and opinions on trending issues. He is currently studying for a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at the University of South Wales, Wales, United Kingdom. He has diplomas in Banking and Finance, Investigative Journalism, Creative Writing, and Linguistics from Lagos State Polytechnic, Isolo, Lagos, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland and The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom.