“Too much agreement kills a chat”
– Eldridge Cleaver
Despite our differences, there are thousands of things that the majority of the population agree upon – the world is round, cake is delicious, always wear a seatbelt, etc. An infinite number of agreements are made every day, be it as simple as agreeing upon where to go for lunch with a friend, or as complicated as the decisions made by a jury with regards to a criminal case. Some agreements effect only one or two people, some effect a whole crowd, and some, such as the appointment of the next British Prime Minister, can determine the fate of an entire nation. Agreement is an integral part of everyday life as not only does it evoke a sense of solidarity in society, it also prevents the chaos that would ensue if everyone disagreed on everything! So clearly it is something to be celebrated.
Agreement is also a powerful tool in promoting conversation. I don’t know about you, but for me, little beats the thrill of finding someone that agrees with one of my most peculiar opinions. I recently met someone that finds it equally infuriating when the protective paper is left on top of the butter, peeled back half way but never fully removed (this really grinds my gears!) The loud and animated conversation that followed, based on an unusual common ground, was one spurred on by the excitement of finding someone who passionately agreed with such an obscure viewpoint. In this sense, agreement aided the conversation and allowed for a wonderful rant about one of my biggest pet peeves. Yet while agreement is essential in day-to-day life, it is important to celebrate the disagreements too; after all the former cannot exist without the latter!
Let me just clarify that by ‘disagreement’ I do not mean a wall-shaking argument involving shouting and tears (although even these can be beneficial from time to time)! By disagreement I simply mean a conversation in which a difference of opinion, a conflicting perspective, or a contrasting position of faith or morality is voiced.
Everyone on this planet has grown up in a slightly different way – in different countries, with different family set-ups, living by different cultural traditions and rules – so it would be ridiculous to expect nothing but agreement in a world of such diversity. But this disagreement should not be looked upon as a negative thing, in fact quite the opposite. We should celebrate our differences and explore these whenever we get the chance, learning about other people, sharing our own opinions and aiming to empathise and understand one another. By all means disagree with an opinion, but always be sure to listen and offer a respectful response. At the end of the day, it’s not about being right or wrong, it’s about being open to new ideas and engaging in gentle disagreements, and this, I think, is what Eldridge Cleaver was getting at.
So, while the above quote was initially intended in a funny way, I think Cleaver makes an important point – agreement is good, but too much and there’s nothing left to talk about! Conversations, or ‘chats’, thrive on differing opinions and original ideas, both of which are eradicated by perpetual agreement, meaning if we agreed with everything anyone ever said, there would be no conversations left to be had. Agreement is important, yes, but it’s the debate beforehand that makes for a diverse and interesting world. So embrace our differences, listen to other people’s opinions, and seek out the conversations that challenge you to disagree, and with a bit of luck it will be the best chat you’ve ever had!