George S. Patton once said “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”
In the “therapy world” I have a reputation for being a more direct therapist. For a lot of people seeking counseling, this doesn’t work for them. They are looking for someone who simply agrees with them and does a lot of head nodding. They are looking for comfort and if that’s what they need, it’s okay. No judgement- we must find what we need.
It’s just not me.
Challenging someone comes from a place of wanting to see them grow. I don’t think we grow personally when someone agrees with us all of the time. When our thought process is challenged, we are forced to look at an issue from a different angle. When our scope changes, we can understand other people better and this helps us accept different opinions. That’s a huge part of counseling— not only understanding ourselves but understanding and accepting those people we care about.
Let’s face it though, disagreeing with people can be uncomfortable and awkward. Conflict is not a fun place to hang out. But it’s such an important place to sit because when we are uncomfortable, we are forced to decide our priorities, our passions and our principals.
It’s important to learn that disagreeing with people is normal. Natural. Healthy. Disagreeing— if done respectfully— isn’t about being difficult or unkind, it’s about communicating a different thought process. We have all experienced our own circumstances, influencers, and core beliefs that have lead us to the thoughts and opinions we hold today.
And because no person is the same, this means there are a million different intentions, approaches, thoughts and solutions for the same issue. Having different opinions and beliefs is nothing new, in fact, it’s what makes us human and unique individuals.
One quick note- disagreeing with someone is different than be disagreeable. Disagreeing means we debate, discuss and decide what works for us. Being disagreeable can come across as closed minded, hostile and wanting to start a fight for the intention of making someone feel bad. If that’s the goal, your point will always be lost.
Disagreeing with someone- whether it be your spouse, your boss,
your child, your good friend or your therapist can be a learning moment. A positive thing. Disagreements can help you think creatively and help you learn a new way to approach something. It can open your eyes and challenge your assumptions, expectations and solutions.
Disagreeing teaches us how a difference of opinions can lead to better outcomes- personally, professionally and relationship wise. It shows us how to express our feelings but also makes us aware that there is more than one way to look at an issue.
Recently I had a patient who was angry at something I said in a session. It caused her to be upset and she was not happy with me. When we talked about her anger at the next session and she opened up about why it upset her, she realized that no one had ever made her think about a painful past situation from a different light. It was an uncomfortable light but it opened her eyes to a different kind of closure and healing, one she had never felt before.
Of course, you won’t always agree with your therapist, or your spouse or your child. Is there anyone with whom you agree all the time? Let yourself be challenged and be open to a different lens or a different opinion. When things feel uncomfortable, remind yourself that you are growing and getting stronger.
Remember: Different roads lead to the same castle. There is more than one way to accomplish a goal, understand your self and others or reach a destination.