3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Agree with Everything You Read

CloudCoverRecently I had a conversation with someone who doesn’t understand my tendency to read blogs and books written by people with whom I disagree. Why not focus on everyone who sees the world exactly the way that you do?

Well, many of the writers I follow do agree with me. There’s comfort in spending time with people who share your beliefs and don’t need lengthy explanations about X, Y or Z.

With that being said here are 3 reasons why it’s beneficial to read stuff that ruffles your feathers, too:

1. You might be wrong. I might be wrong, too! There’s value in holding opinions in the palm of your hands instead of in a clenched fist. Occasionally I’ve  changed my opinion midstream when the person I’m speaking with introduces me to a new way of looking at the topic. Even if everyone walk away with no changes to our ideas we will at least know how others think.

2. They’re good writers. Knowing how to clearly communicate through the written word is a gift.  I’ve winced through far too many poorly-constructed books, blog posts and essays in my 29 years to continue giving them my attention. At this point I’d much rather focus on story-tellers (fiction and non-fiction alike) who know this craft well enough to creatively break the rules.

3.  Friendly disagreement sharpens your mind. Disagreement doesn’t always mean conflict and  conflict isn’t always bad. Once one begins to temper the urge to always be right there is so much we can learn from examining what it is we believe and why it is we believe it. It takes a long time for me to grow comfortable enough to do this with other people as it can lead you to quite vulnerable places. The list of folks who have made it so far is fairly small (and even they know not to push certain topics) but the rewards are long-lasting.



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0 Responses to 3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Agree with Everything You Read

  1. Could you just imagine (btw I really hate Lennon’s “Imagine” song) what the world would be like if everyone was open minded to see another point of view. In my personal informational quest on the subject of alternative energy I have seen so much stubbornness and anger that I didn’t expect to see. You continue to impress me with your thoughts and ideas, you must have the most awesome parents to have brought you up to be an open minded person.

  2. teresa s

    Lydia, I love you! I know that may seem a strange comment after reading this post, but it’s the thought that first came to my mind and I wanted to tell you. I wish we lived close to each other because I think we could be great friends. I feel the same way about your parents and it was VERY hard to see them move away! Just this Sunday over our morning cup of coffee at Panera, we were discussing this very subject. It has been our experience that most people prefer to surround themselves with like-minded people. They don’t like to have their beliefs challenged or discuss things without feeling defensive. This has been contrary to our way of living and it made it difficult for us to ‘fit in’ when we were a part of the institutional church experience. I EMBRACE diversity. There is a bible verse that says something like: we become like the company we keep. It’s true…hang around negative people long enough, you will become negative.

    I don’t think that’s what that verse is referring to at all. I do think it’s a warning to choose wisely who we spend time with, but to choose friends based strongly on the fact that they think LIKE you is just not my choice. I prefer diversity. I even embrace having my beliefs challenged! I’m not exactly sure why we believe this way. Neither of us came from open minded thinking families or backgrounds, but we each believed in being who we were without the pressure of conforming to an expected standard. It’s made our lives interesting and has brought us to where we are today…and we’ve never been happier!

    Soooo very nice to read your writing today! If there was a ‘LIKE’ button to this post I would have clicked it numerous times!

  3. Over the past few years, I’ve gained an increasing appreciation for your third point, Lydia. That is, I’ve been discovering the value to me of opinions that do not entirely jive with my own. For instance, they often serve to inform and enrich my own opinion, so that I see more after encountering someone who disagrees with me than I saw before.

    I think I have found a distinction, however, between people who are expressing their honest opinion, and people who are parroting some “party line”. When someone speaks from their own experience, or speaks from a perspective they have made an effort to verify is true, their opinions are much more useful and informative than when someone is merely trying to manipulate my opinion. Consequently, I have learned to trust some people quite a bit, even though they often enough contradict me.

    Thank you for a very thoughtful — and thought inspiring — post!

    • It’s been a while since we chatted, Paul! So nice to hear from you again.

      I also find myself valuing some people’s opinions over others. If (general) you knows why you believe what you do and can explain it without taking or giving offense I’m much more likely to listen to what you have to say.

      I’m curious to hear if you’ve ever met people who don’t seem to believe what they say. That is, they spout off the “party line” (religious, political, philosophical or otherwise) but they don’t actually seem to believe what they’re saying. It’s almost a reflex for them to say X when you mention Y or Z…but then they rarely if ever follow through on it.

      I know I’ve done that in the past but I don’t have a name for it.

      • Thank your for your kind words, Lydia. It’s good to see you again, too.

        There are some people who have given me a strong sense that they are much more concerned with persuading me of their views than they are concerned with the accuracy of their views. I sometimes think that, on some level, they might know better — might know that what they say isn’t entirely true — but they are so wrapped up in their desire to be believed that they might not even fully recognize they are lying to me.

        When I say that, I have in mind one person in particular — a man I engage with now and then on an internet forum. He’s pretty bright — in my opinion, too bright to be saying the things he does say. That is, he comes across to me as someone who, rather than state his true opinion, spins things, perhaps in the hope of winning arguments or whatnot. That particular man comes readily to mind, but I have met others like him.

        I would much, much prefer someone who simply tells me what his experience or learning has taught him, than someone who is merely concerned with winning an argument.

        Sometimes I myself stray into trying to win arguments, but one of the advantages of learning how valuable people’s honest opinions can be even when they disagree with me, is that I tend to do that much less now than I once did.

        As for people who spout x simply because you said y, I have learned a couple somewhat old fashioned words for that. One of those words is “perversity”. That is, those people used to be called “perverse”. But I think that word is often nowadays confused with “perverted”, so I tend not to use it. Rather, I call such people “contrary”. Another old fashioned word for them. Perhaps a more modern version is “contrarians”.

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