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These Books Taught Me How to Disagree Without Being a Jerk — You Can Learn Too

Learn how to have constructive conversations even when you disagree.

These Books Taught Me How to Disagree Without Being a Jerk — You Can Learn Too

Growing up, I saw my mom crying a lot.


She is anti-disagreement, anti-fight, anti-conflict. For example, a family member said something mean to her on the phone. She would not argue. Instead, she would hang up the phone and start crying.

At times, she would take the blame for someone else’s actions just to smooth things out. She wants the environment around her to be sunshine and roses at all times.

But the world doesn’t work that way.

It was only recently that she admitted that she was too good for her own good.

Seeing her predicament, my siblings and I decided to verbalize our disagreements. Whether it was between ourselves, with parents, other family members, or friends.

Human beings would never agree with each other 100%. We will always have different opinions. We will see the same things differently.

What do we do then?

We have to learn to talk to each other despite the disagreements.

These books will help you do exactly that.

These Books Taught Me How to Disagree Without Being a Jerk — You Can Learn Too

Unity is possible despite our differences.

I can relate to Lee a lot.

As a child, I was a ‘goody two shoes’ as well.

My goal in life was to spread my faith. I wanted to show light to those who were in the dark.

The ‘misguided’ ones included the members of my religion. Even when they believed a slightly different version, I perceived it as wrong.

Opening my mind and heart to people different from me wasn’t easy.

But it was worth it.

How did I do it?

I listened to them.

Echo Chambers

Lee touches on exactly that. He said we take our opinions to the people who agree with us. We don’t talk to those who disagree with us. This means we live in an echo chamber.

Even Google searches are primed to show us results based on our search history. This limits exposure to opposing points of view.

“In an echo-chamber world, objective truth carries less weight than truth-as-defined-by-my-social-circles.”

Before the internet, social groups were small. We had no option but to talk to the person sitting opposite us. Now, we can block them with a tap of a finger. This exacerbates the echo chamber issue.

Lee was an evangelical Christian. His faith is an important part of life. He grew up and discovered he was gay.

Having access to both groups of people made him ‘culturally bilingual’.

After studying the divides in his world, he wrote this book. He aims to bring people together despite their disagreements. To do this, he quotes strategies, studies, and research.

Lee’s book revolves around American culture and society. Honestly, though, everyone on the globe can benefit from it.

The author explains how dialogues can help us better understand each other’s positions. Having conducted various dialogue events, he tells us how to conduct them.

“…dialogue… It isn’t saying “everyone is equally right,” and it isn’t debate or argument. It is a chance to hear one another out and seek to build understanding while acknowledging that we still want to change one another’s minds.”

Breaking Barriers

There are five different barriers to successful dialogue.

The first one is the “ego-protection barrier”.

Ego-Protection Barrier: We are afraid to look foolish.

“Nobody wants to look foolish.

Nobody wants to be wrong.

Nobody wants to feel manipulated.”

The rest of the barriers are team loyalty, comfort, misinformation, and worldview protection.

For me personally, the faulty worldview that I held was that the struggle is between believers vs disbelievers. We have to bring disbelievers on our side. We have to make them see that believers are right.

“When you ask someone to change their position on an important issue, it’s the emotional equivalent of asking them to get up off the couch and go to the gym.”

The Internet has a good role to play too. The author admits that. I do too.

Thanks to the internet, I saw the whole picture. The people I was told to stay away from, had the same stories as the people in our part of the world.

Discovering this was an enlightening experience.

“Visualize being told that a view you’ve believed your whole life is wrong.”

I have the same mission as the author. That’s why it is hard for me to put a pause on writing the summary of this book.

I’ll end by saying, if everyone read this book, the world would be a better place.

These Books Taught Me How to Disagree Without Being a Jerk — You Can Learn Too

Talking is overrated. Try listening.

Even if we believe with our heart and soul that the other person is wrong, we should listen to them.

That’s the only way to fight hate.

“Somewhere along the way we stopped disagreeing with each other and started hating each other.”

In Defence of Nuance

The authors are Christians, who are on the opposite side of the political spectrum. They host a podcast together, called Pantsuit Politics.

This book is their attempt to bridge the divide between the right and the left.

The authors outline a principle in each chapter and then practically apply it.

For example, there is a chapter on ‘Paradox’. They use the example of ‘abortion’ to explain the paradox presented by the two values. Valuing life and respecting women’s choices about their bodies.

“Grace simply means that all people are valuable. It does not mean that all opinions are valid.”

When you read this book, it will make you self-reflect on how your biases make you interact with politics. In addition, it will help you see how others engage with politics.

The world is not black and white. It is gray.

“Discomfort is the path to growth…”

Keep Politics in Perspective

My life partner holds political opinions that are different from mine. The only way for us to keep the arguments at bay is to believe this:

“We must keep politics in perspective. Our government is important, yes, but we don’t have to care about it every minute.”

We don’t have to make politics the center stage in our life. Most of us, regardless of political affiliations, are concerned with the same things. Food, safety, love.

Although some might criticize this approach and say not everyone has the privilege to do so.

I hear you. That is why we are talking about differences here.

Even if you end up disagreeing with the authors at times, that is a good enough reason to pick up this book. News flash! We are talking about disagreement here.

These Books Taught Me How to Disagree Without Being a Jerk — You Can Learn Too

Don’t dodge conflicts, they are not bullets.

The first two books focus on differences on a larger scale.

In relationships, things get trickier. In a marriage or friendship, the intimacy between people, their expectations of each other, and the emotional connection complicates things.

“Belonging is a central need in the human experience. Relationships are everything.”

Reading this book will help you understand that.

Conflict isn’t the enemy

Conflict is a good thing. It helps strengthen relationships and expands our worldview.

Regardless of its benefits, it is overwhelming to handle conflict without the right skillset or understanding.

Why do conflicts happen?

The author gives us the reason for conflict which I find particularly interesting.

He says that conflicts happen because of too much closeness or too much distance. Either of these things makes us feel threatened.

When we get too close, we might classify the other person’s acts as intrusive. When too far, we feel we are being abandoned.

“You can be right, or you can be in a relationship. — Stan Tatkin”

What to do when we are feeling threatened?

Identify your coping mechanism.

The author details four coping mechanisms that people employ.

  1. Posturing: Blaming the other person.

  2. Collapsing: Shutting down and blaming yourself.

  3. Seeking: Trying to reiterate connection because of insecurity.

  4. Avoiding: Putting more distance between you and your partner.

Understanding our behavior can help us rectify our negative actions.

The Role of Empathy — Row Number Seven

Gaddis teaches us a conflict resolution activity called ‘Conflict Box.’

It involves making a box and dividing it into nine rows. You have to write different things in each row, like the person’s name, his/her actions, how they made you feel, etc.

I want to mention row 7. In row seven, you have to write from the perspective of the other person. Put yourself in their shoes.

Empathy is the core of conflict resolution.

“Relational leaders have a growth mindset. They learn and grow from experience in order to achieve a skill, overcome an obstacle, solve a problem, or master an ability.”

Gaddis also gives us a LUFU tool (Listen Until They Feel Understood).

In addition to the listening tool, the author gives 5 common conflicts. I enjoyed reading about them. If we understand a conflict, it becomes easy to solve.

The five common conflicts are:

1. Surface fights: Superficial fights like you didn’t put the glass back

2. Childhood projections: Projecting past experiences on current situation

3. Security fights: Due to insecurity

4. Value differences: Differences in beliefs

5. Resentments: Trying to change the other person

The key takeaway from this book is to confront differences instead of letting them simmer.

Using the right skills, you can have a good conflict and use it to make your relationship even stronger.


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If you enjoyed these book recommendations, check out the rest of my book lists on my blog-

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