Agree to Disagree in a Constructive Way
Seems likes it’s becoming increasingly more difficult in the current political climate to “agree to disagree.” But can we disagree in a way that’s not destructive? Can we at least try to not be downright contemptuous to those with opposing views?
That's the question being discussed by economist Arthur Brooks, who says politicians, in particular, are creating the climate of contempt. And the damage is being hoisted upon the average American.
"We have leaders who are encouraging us as citizens to treat each other with contempt," Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, said during a recent Facebook Live discussion from the Aspen Ideas Festival, an annual event held by the Aspen Institute in Colorado. "That's a really dangerous business, building power on the basis of contempt and division. ...
"The most destructive way to disagree is to treat your interlocutor with contempt. We have to get out of that particular habit. We have to demand leaders aren't going to do that," he said.
Sociologists describe contempt as a phenomenon in which individuals hold the conviction that other people are utterly worthless. It's more insidious than disagreement or even anger, Brooks says.
"Anger you get over ... contempt you don't. If I treat you as a worthless human you're never going to forget that," he said, citing the work of marriage counselor John Gottman, who can watch a couple on a video for five seconds without the sound on and predict with 94 percent accuracy whether they will stay together or divorce based on physical expressions of contempt.
Nationally, 86 percent of Americans say they believe the country is more politically divided than in the past, according to the Pew Research Center. That's the highest percentage ever to give that response since the question was first asked in 2004. At the same time, A CBS poll said a majority are optimistic that Americans of different political views can come together and work out their differences.
Brooks said that Americans in general have long been able to hold political disagreements and still treat each other respectfully.
"We all love somebody who doesn't agree with us politically," he said.
The obsession with national politics not only is not what the Founding Fathers envisioned, but also is to blame for the cult-like partitioning of Americans into political tribes. Fortunately, many political leaders at the state and local level on both sides of the aisle are solving problems without the distraction of creating heroes and villains.
Brooks says it comes down to being able to "disagree better."
"The positive change starts with us."
Do you think that Brooks is correct, and can anything be done to improve the divide?
Watch the video to hear more of Brooks' views on the political climate and free enterprise as well as how he went from a classical musician to a world-renowned economist and researcher on happiness.