Opinion: Illusions of agreement


Commentary by Terry Anker

Placate. Mollify. Appease. Pacify. Quell. Assuage. Moderate. Allay. There are those who default to interpersonal tactics designed to prevent confrontation. It is not that we inherently have low confidence in our position. We believe that our point of view is superior and are possessed with every intention of getting our way. Still, experience has taught that an imagined cooperative approach then followed by a more assertive one to be the most effective in accomplishing the objectives. The target of the deception is lured into the trap with claims of agreement and consensus. “No, you’re right,” falsely proclaims the serpent. Once hypnotized with a false sense of sympatico, the victim is constricted by the warm embrace of pretend compliment. “You are so much smarter than me,” it continues with each compression.

Now, the object is fully ensnared, unable to budge from the tightening hold. The mood shifts from passive to aggressive, invariably. Tone changes to disagreement. There was no accord. The claims of shared perspective were entirely fabricated. There is no mutual ground. In fact, the time of delay was used to bolster the argument and position. Whether a discussion about where to go to dinner, how much to donate to charity, or if to ceasefire in a protracted war, we find ourselves manipulated by the stall. Should we simply fight every battle without any social nicety to keep us from each other’s throats? Are we necessarily dishonest if we hold back a bit on our emotion? Is restraint a weakness?

But what if we never resolve anything? If conflict is not healthy, is avoidance any better? So, how do we disagree with respect and understanding? Long-term caring, loving relationships can help. If better connected, we withstand the strain of bitter disagreement. Can we value trust and respect more than victory?