Growth and Humility During Disagreements

September 28, 2020

Louis Tay

During disagreements, isn’t it fascinating that we can get so caught up in proving ourselves right that we often dismiss or even denigrate the other person? 

There are multiple reasons for this. By winning an argument, we experience the emotion of vindication, which is a rewarding emotion. Sometimes we don’t need to win the fight, but we want to be heard—the validation of our opinions bolters our self-esteem and self-worth. We want to be accepted by others, and if our ideas face rejection, we retaliate in indignation because of our experience of pain.

We have a tendency to fight tooth and nail, even when it can cause harm to our relational well-being, especially with loved ones.

Can we change our mindset toward disagreements and our subsequent negative reactions? One way is to construe disagreements as opportunities for growth and humility. 

Growth occurs when we are facing some degree of challenge and difficulty. Growth from physical workouts requires sufficient stress on our muscle tissues. The resultant micro-tears force the muscles to repair and build studier and larger muscles. It is an apt metaphor for character growth. The challenge of facing disagreements and a rejection of one’s viewpoints is an opportunity to grow.

Disagreeable situations can bring growth in humility. We need to recognize that genuine disagreements arise from diverse lived experiences from which people see the world. Other people are not always right, but they are almost certainly not always wrong.   

With this in mind, during a disagreement, you can:

  1. Appreciate this as an opportunity to grow
  2. Acknowledge an opposing view without being defensive
  3. Affirm what you have learned about their experience and opinion

Humility does not mean that you agree with your adversary. However, it does mean that you do not see the other person as an adversary. You should be able to appreciate, acknowledge, and affirm another. Humility makes our disagreements constructive rather than destructive; it puts us in a mindset to learn rather than spurn. 

Be well,


Dr. Louis Tay

Tay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences. He has expertise in well-being, assessments, and data science. Check back each week for his wellness tip of the week! Be sure to check back each week for another wellness tip of the week!

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