23 January 2014

What do you do when someone disagrees with you?

Something I was thinking about while swimming...

With siblings, parents, spouse, the underlying belief is that you love each other no matter what, so disagreements come and go. But what do you do when someone you work with or meet at a party or have to deal with in your building (a bunch of kids broke one of my pots recently and the plant is dead! ugh), an acquaintance whose long term happiness is not your priority, disagrees?

Dissent is of two types: rational and irrational. Mind you, this is subjective too. What is rational to me, might be irrational to you. Except for mathematical, physical and natural phenomenon, which are immutable, you can pretty much argue that something you think is correct. But the problem is that there will always be people who disagree.

In my profession, evidence rules. If you can prove it, your word holds. If someone can independently prove the same thing you have, but differently, the better. If no one can reproduce your data, it's a big problem. So, a disagreement can be more or less easily settled - you have to prove the other person incorrect by doing an experiment. Because at the end of the day, good, clean (as opposed to doctored) data wins.

Now unfortunately, when you are arguing about the merits of the colour purple as a curtain-choice, or whether to place the newly arrived potted plant in your office in the corridor or next to the loo, there's bound be a range of opinions. Some that you might not like. Do you quickly run through your mind that this isn't important, ergo don't argue? Or do you stand your ground? How comfortable are you to agree to disagree?

I am very bad at handling disagreements with people on personal matters. As far as science is concerned, there is no argument - data wins, but for everything else, rules apply!


  1. Made me think.... not sure what I do.

    I guess don't argue unless I feel very strongly about something, but not if the other person appears to be unlikely to be open to the arguments being presented.

  2. For me it isn't so much about whether we agree or disagree but if it is done in a polite and friendly manner. Agreeing to everything makes one appear sycophantic but disagreeing in a boorish manner just makes one, well, disagreeable.

    Shoots :)