Zen and the art of never becoming disagreeable

It is perfectly possible and correct to differ with someone on an opinion or issue and still get along that person. This is not about being hypocritical or practicing double-standards. This is a mature way of learning to separate issues from people.
It is not easy definitely to start with. But when you view any situation closely, you will find that it is imminently possible to deal with it dispassionately, which is always the best way too! What happens though is when we have a difference of opinion with someone, we try to avoid that person. We start finding newer flaws with that person in order to magnify and justify our difference of opinion. So, for instance, say you disagree with your friend’s political views. And you get into a strong argument with that friend. Instead of shaking hands with that friend at the end of a stimulating discussion, you choose to just walk away. The next time you meet that friend, you are carrying the baggage of the last experience and you begin to wonder, for instance, why he or she is dressed the way they are. You start justifying your last opinion of this person with a fresh sentiment saying this person does not even know how to be properly groomed. And so this ruinous cycle of ‘building a case’ to isolate the person itself, not just the views, begins. It happens subconsciously. But it happens all the time in most relationships we have.
Pause for a moment now. Think of all the situations when you have disagreed with people in the last week. Just in the last 7 days. Review your sentiments, even the ones you may have not expressed but experienced in your mind, of these people. Objectively enlist the number of times you were on the ‘building a case’ mode with these people. To your surprise, in each of the instances when you disagreed on an issue, you have inadvertently, subconsciously, taken the route to justify and magnify the difference of opinion, often beyond the issue itself. You will be surprised how much you__and I__are habituated to this practice.
We must break free from this thinking though. Three simple steps may be helpful here: 1. Acknowledge that each one is entitled to their opinion 2. If you disagree remember always that the disagreement is with the issue, the behavior, the opinion, never with the person 3. Conclude each disagreement session with a smile and say clearly, passionately, that you hope to find a meeting ground sometime soon on this issue! Apply this to every relationship you have and to every episode where you have felt or expressed disagreement. Start with your list of last week and work back, ensuring also, that going forward you will not let any new disagreements assume demonic, irrevocable proportions.

Popular American radio host, Bernard Meltzer’s (1916~1998 show ‘What’s Your Problem?’ helped listeners calling in crack some of Life’s myriad puzzles. He once said, “If you have learned how to disagree without being disagreeable then you have discovered the secret of getting along — whether it be in business, family relations, or in Life itself.” When you learn the art of never becoming disagreeable, you too would have learnt to live intelligently!

Companionship is a blessing!

Companionship is a blessing. And you will do well to nurture it so it stays fresh and relevant.

All of us who are married celebrate anniversaries. For some it is a celebration of togetherness! For some people these are important, beautiful milestones in an eventful Life. For others it is a reminder of a time that ‘once was’. For still others it is stark, sometimes painful memory of a forgettable, redoubtable decision taken in a moment of infatuation. And for some others it could just be a date which is never remembered on time.


In a new world, with newer options available for people to seek companionship, marriage as an institution is under pressure. Its relevance too is being questioned. And many people are beginning to prefer live-in relationships because they believe them to be less complicated, call for even lesser (legal) commitment and are easy to get into and get out of. Now, for sure, if the focus is companionship, then a live-in relationship may well be no different from a marriage where the commitment is explicit and bound by a legal, religious and social framework. Even so, let us focus on the aspect of companionship than on the various labels__marriage or live-in or whatever__associated with it that thrive in society.

Yesterday, two friends, sisters, celebrated their late parents’ 53rd wedding anniversary by sending a bunch of roses to chosen couples in their circle of influence. The roses were accompanied by a soulful note that read: “Today we celebrate the 53rdanniversary of our parents. Though they are not with us anymore we celebrate their Life together and send you these flowers to celebrate your togetherness too.” It was a very touching gesture by the two sisters to remember the lives their parents’ led and to share that spirit among people they knew.

This got me thinking. What is it that makes some people’s companionship tick while with others there’s strife, struggle, sorrow, suffering and, as is increasingly common, separation? I can talk from my own experience. And of course from watching what has happened in my circle of influence in the several years that I have been around and have been able to experience and learn from Life. So, I will talk only of what makes it tick than focus on what wrecks it! Invariably the successful continuance of the chemistry between two companions works when they continue to relate to each other the same way they did when they met first. As long as they ‘relate’ to each other there will be no need for them to worry about their relationship. There will be mutual respect, love, companionship and a deep understanding. This doesn’t mean they won’t disagree. They will. This doesn’t mean they won’t have fights. They will. This does mean that they will often disapprove and dispute what the other person is saying or doing, but they won’t disengage.

At least in my over 25 years of knowing my companion, we have never used the term ‘I told you so!’ with each other. We disagree after a healthy debate, but one of us always falls in line with the others’ thinking__still choosing to retain the individual point of view__but we don’t work over time to disprove the other. The other thing which we have found working very well for both us is to appreciate and celebrate each others’ strengths than berate the other’s weaknesses. I have a weakness for being short on the fuse on matters where my intelligence is questioned. I am much better than I used to be before. But I will still fly off the handle when someone__never my companion, other stakeholders do__questions my intelligence by doing a poor quality job or gives a lame, unbelievable excuse for not doing what she or he was assigned. My decibel level sometimes vitiates the home environment. This is a weakness. But my companion has never told me to correct myself in a way that my self-esteem has been affected. Yet she will critique my strengths in a manner in which I feel I must improve further. And that makes our companionship meaningful. We are not just growing old together, we are growing up together. Finally, we keep the romance alive. We rise in love every single time we are together. We treat each other as friends first, soul-mates next and spouses and (in our case, we are) business partners last. So we share, we converse, we debate, we do all the little things we used to do when we met first in October 1987. We keep doing them. So, there is nothing boring about our lives. It keeps the romance alive, fresh and unputdownable.

So, I would recommend focusing on four points to make a companionship memorable:

  1. Keep relating to each other – the companionship then will stay relevant over time, irrespective of what you call it – marriage, live-in, platonic, ‘just friends’ …
  2. Disagree, Dispute, Debate – But never try to Disprove or to say ‘I told you so’ when things don’t go to a plan
  3. Celebrate each other’s strengths than berate each other’s weaknesses 
  4. Keep the romance alive – rise in love every single time than fall out, from monotony and boredom!

Review your own companionship. If you find something missing, try applying this four-way focus. You may well find a companion, whom you thought you had lost, waiting for you where you had a spouse standing until recently! When you do rediscover that companion, you will recognize the blessing in that companionship!