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This past year, I heard the phrase “let’s just agree to disagree” more than I needed to. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with agreeing to disagree, however, it doesn’t work in every situation. 

If I say soccer is the best sport in the world and my friend says basketball is, that is something we can agree to disagree on. We hold each of those sports to different standards due to our own emotional connection with it. If I say pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza and my friend says it does, that’s also something we can agree to disagree on. I’m definitely going to recommend she consult a doctor to see if her taste buds are fine but it’s not something I would end my friendship with her over. 

At the end of the day, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, whether it’s something you agree with or not. You cannot force your opinion onto anyone either, so the best way to defuse a disagreement is to agree to disagree. Disagreements are natural, you can’t expect everyone to think the same as you. But disagreements can easily turn into conflict when you start disagreeing about sensitive topics. 

The things I mentioned before are common disagreements between people that shouldn’t lead to serious conflicts. Things get serious when people start saying “let’s agree to disagree” about things such as racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. In my opinion, those things are not up for debate. If someone says the country they live in has been systemically oppressing them, you listen and see how you can help. You don’t deny that fact or dismiss their experience and then proceed to end the conversation with “maybe we should just agree to disagree.” 

There are people that will agree with you but still play devil’s advocate because they think that they’re being unbiased and critical by presenting you with arguments on behalf of the oppressor. If you’re someone that likes to play devil’s advocate, ask yourself why you feel the need to do that. What are you getting out of it? You need to remember that when you advocate for the oppressor in a conversation with the oppressed, that conversation is going to take a much greater emotional toll on them than it will on you. In conversations like that, it’s okay for you to say “I don’t agree to disagree” because that person needs to know that it isn’t okay. 

If you have a friend that dismisses your personal experiences with critical issues, it’s time to say goodbye to them. A real friend would never do that. 

Thamilini Balakumar is a Global Business and Digital Arts student at the University of Waterloo. She has a passion for creative writing and storytelling. In addition to writing, she tells stories through her photography and videography.
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