Abstract art of merging colours by Evelyn Simon
Image via Pixabay

Hypothesis: people who use “yes” frequently on online chats, collaborations, and fora, who seek commonality rather than magnify differences, are more emotionally mature and resilient.

The converse is people who seek argument, argue to be right, and impose their perspective on others. They say “but” or “you are wrong” a lot.

Being agreeable is different from being a yes-person. Yes-people act out of fear. They are blindly subservient for fear of rocking the boat or being wrong. For them, being agreeable is a reactive defense to avoid confrontations. Being obsequiously agreeable can also be a manipulation tactic, to buy the favour of someone more powerful who can hopefully grant favours in return.

Cultivating a commonality-seeking mindset requires a level of humility (setting aside our ego's need to be right and win) and the recognition that with the investment of some effort on our part, we can identify some shared experience with just about anyone. It is the willingness to see the humanity in the other, regardless of how different we may appear to be from the outside, to see parallels of their experience with ours. It doesn’t mean we have to accept their view/position unconditionally and uncritically.

Finding agreement with someone with divergent religious and sociopolitical views is possible.

Religions are different worldviews. Adherents hold their respective worldviews sacrosanct and believe they are doing the right thing for humanity by following their beliefs. They experience frustration that not everyone perceives their religion in the same way. At this fundamental level, all religions are in agreement.

Anti-vaxxers are fearful. This fear is similar to the fear the rest of society feels when faced with diseases like COVID. Fear drives people to hold tight to their beliefs, and reduces their critical thinking abilities. The fear is real and has real impact on mental health. At this fundamental level, both pro- and anti-vaxxers are in agreement.

People in both the left and right wings of politics are desperate to make the world a better place. They believe they are each on the right side of history, and are doing what they can to build a better world for themselves and their children. At this fundamental level, both wings are in agreement.

Focusing on the bases of agreement makes difficult discussions possible.

How do you go about engaging in difficult conversations?