We have casual face-to-face (and telephonic) conversations everyday. We chat with our friends, discuss latest gossip with colleagues and sometimes also strike up conversations with strangers while waiting for a bus or something. I have observed that in such casual conversations most people (impulsively) tend to agree with each other, no matter what is being discussed. For example, imagine this conversation: I meet my cousin at a family function and I bring up my love for Goa as a vacation spot. Irrespective of his own opinions, my cousin is likely to respond in this manner: “Yes, it is really a fun destination”. For all I know, he may have hated his experience in Goa last time, but because of unsaid conventions, most conversations enter into mutual appreciation mode. I agree to what you say, and you agree to what I say.
Why do people have affirmative casual conversations?
Because agreeing is much less riskier than disagreeing. Unless you strongly disagree on a topic, it simply isn’t worth confronting the other person with your disagreement. So what if you hate Goa? It isn’t worth upsetting rosy fantasies of your cousin who you only meet once in a while. This drive to agree with others is so strong that even if some people want to express their disagreement, they would qualify it with an acknowledgement first. For example, they may say “Goa is nice but I didn’t like the beaches. They were dirty”.
Of course, if someone brings up a sensitive topic (like religion, family, ethnicity or anything else you strongly care about), you would certainly disagree. For example, if my best friend says to me “Punjabis are rude and brash”, I will certainly confront him with my arguments. However, the problem is that some people qualify their disagreement even on topics they strongly care about. In hope to sound nice, they may say: “You may be right about Punjabis, but it is not 100% true because…”. Why in this world can’t you simply and plainly disagree?
People find it easier to disagree on online forums/platforms. This is because of two reasons:
- Our online identities are somewhat masked. My online handle @paraschopra is not as authentic representation of me as the words coming out of my mouth while I am having a face to face conversation. What this leads to is a somewhat emotionally detached point of view, where you argue based on facts not caring a lot about others’ reactions (because you can’t observe them online as you would do in a face to face conversation). As they say, you don’t have to be necessarily nice on the Internet.
- There is no immediacy in responding. One of the reasons why we tend to agree (in person) is because we subconsciously fear that we may not have enough time to justify our disagreement, so we risk coming across as a fool. But online it is different: you get enough time to think through your opinions and lay out your disagreement.
But, of course, anonymous people online can go crazy and simply disagree for disagreement’s sake. Obviously, this is not what I am arguing for. My point is that:
It’s not rude to disagree in personal conversations
Cowing to others’ opinions in a conversation is mark of a weak person. If you find disagreeing online easier, there is no reason why you shouldn’t stand for your opinions while talking in person or over phone. A conversation where all you do do is blindly agree with each other is a grand waste of time and is so boring. I say something, you agree. You say something, I agree. What are we doing here? Pleasuring each other?
Conversations with different opinions are much more interesting. If you don’t like Goa, just say it. Don’t qualify it, just tell me your reasons and we should be having a much more meaningful conversation. If you don’t like color of your friend’s newly painted house, just tell him that when he brings up this topic. Of course, you don’t have to bring up the color issue out of the blue. That would be rude. What wouldn’t be rude is to tell your friend that you find the color dull when he asks you: “Do you like this new color I have chosen?”. You shouldn’t lie. You shouldn’t agree just to be nice.
Please stop agreeing with others out of fear and impulsion. Stand firm on your opinons.
OK, so do you agree with me on this?
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