I was not raised to see disagreement as anything to be afraid of. In my experience, conflict or argument doesn’t have to be a barrier to a positive, close or loving relationship. In fact, I think learning how to disagree, how to raise concerns and address conflict are some of the most valuable skills we can establish in our lives – for work, for personal relationships, and more.
If you know deep down that someone wants what is best for you, disagreement should never be able to shake that foundation. If there is a pre-established respect and love in a relationship, there is nothing scary about conflicting viewpoints or challenging ideas.
My father and I are both incredibly stubborn. When I was a teenager, we would go head to head in heated “conversations” that would inevitably escalate in true Italian style. Yet underneath it all, knowing that we were family and loved each other meant that there was an inherent inability to take things personally, which usually meant conflicts burned out as quickly as they started. There was something powerful about this – the freedom to disagree or get upset without fearing loss of love – which allowed for emotions to be expressed in an honest, non-threatening way, without building up resentment. It also made room for honest reflection on what was said, once the dust settled.
Over the years this ability to allow others the space to express their opinions (or emotions) and to reflect on the value of what is said rather than taking things personally has been invaluable to me. After all, how are we supposed to learn and grow if we don’t hear opposing points of view? How is it possible to be creative if we only surround ourselves with people who allow us to stay in our comfort zone? How deep can a relationship go if conflicts, desires and opinions are pushed under the rug, or shrouded in silence?
It’s not always easy to hear things that we don’t want to hear. It’s not easy to be called out for decisions that we make in the workplace, or to be challenged by someone close to us. But it’s important to remember that it’s just as difficult to tell someone you respect that you think they’re making a mistake, to be upset with someone you care about or to question their actions. Yet more often than not, don’t we do this out of love?