The causes of disagreement in life are generally caused by one of 10 reasons. By understanding these reasons, you can better navigate arguments.
Plus, these reasons give you insight into why two people may never agree on a subject.
Now, this isn’t a reason to avoid arguments.
Because arguments in themselves aren’t bad. In fact, they’re highly beneficial.
For one, it’s one way to learn the Earth isn’t flat. But also, you can learn much more about yourself, and what makes you tick.
So, let’s piece together the underlying causes of disagreement in life.
#1 Formal and non-formal education
The source of your formal or non-formal education is a biggie.
We all have access to different information growing up. Your environment, gained knowledge, molds you in these formidable years.
What’s more, your social class plays a certain role as well. If you’re raised in poverty, you may have had a poor internet connection at home.
Thus, you couldn’t read all the amazing information online. Information that you couldn’t get anywhere but the internet.
Comparing educations together
One person studies engineering, while another studies history.
More than likely, the engineer has greater knowledge of the nuances of technology.
Now, what if both people studied history? BUT, one person studied in China, while the other person studied in America.
As a result, their knowledge of history will differ to some degree.
What’s more, as an engineer myself, I know certain inside information. Information that’s not easily found online.
The information isn’t reported by the media either. So by default, I have a clearer lens on certain engineering-related subjects.
To point out, people have got into heated arguments with me on these subjects. They formed conclusions from what they thought was all the available information.
But, they were missing major puzzle pieces to the arguments. This is no fault of theirs.
Rather, this highlights how our education provides us with different levels of data. This data then shapes our arguments.
In the end, the more data you have at your fingertips, the better you can present arguments.
This is why the internet has been game-changing. The entire populace has access to endless information.
Thus, eliminating one of the big causes of disagreement in life
Living inside echo chambers
If you only associate with one group, you may only expose yourself to one side of an argument.
Think of nuclear energy.
If you’re against nuclear energy, your information source may only be mainstream media.
What’s more, most people tend to stick with others who share their beliefs. They then only read news sources that align with their own thoughts.
I doubt many people who are against nuclear energy, speak with nuclear physicists. Or even go read on how the technology is safely used today.
When you surround yourself with information you only agree with, you’ll feel great. Because opposing thoughts won’t question what you believe is “right”.
It’s a page out of evolutionary psychology. You avoid things that can possibly hurt you.
In this case, you avoid mental friction from an opposing view.
Further, many of us gather information only from Google. Google’s algorithms then support these echo chambers.
Because we structure our Google searches to validate our beliefs. Plus, Google also customizes our search result pages with sources we visit frequently.
#2 Definition of words
Linguistics, the scientific study of language, is a deep field. Much deeper than I had ever realized.
A lot of times, people use the same words differently. Especially when the two people in a discussion have different first languages.
If you’ve ever heard Russian to English translation, you’ll quickly see my point. Some of the translations sound straight-up ridiculous.
I find you can’t make certain translations. Because you’ll lose the original meaning.
For this reason, when you speak, certain meanings may not come out how you’d like.
Also, some people just have a different definition for a given word.
For example, you say something someone did is “horrible”. One person may interpret the usage of the word as the worst thing a human could ever do.
While you define the usage of the word as a small trip up.
You can see how this could quickly escalate into a heated discussion.
Words that aren’t specific enough in definition
When I was bodybuilding, I’d create all types of healthy meals that tasted good. At least, I thought they tasted good.
For example, one of my blended meals included the following ingredients:
- Unsweetened almond milk
- Whey protein
- Vanilla extract
I called this blended mix “ice cream.” But, some of my friends thought I was nuts.
They said, “no way this is ice cream. It’s just a glorified protein shake.”
Then some of my other friends had no clue what it was.
So, was my concoction a protein shake, ice cream, both, or neither?
In my example, the normal usage of the words “ice cream” and “protein shake” isn’t well defined.
This makes answering my question difficult.
When my friends said it’s a protein shake, I’m not sure what they exactly meant. Frankly, I’m not even sure how I define ice cream.
Is ice cream something that’s cold and at the same time creamy that you eat with a spoon? If yes, my blended shake fits the bill.
This simple misunderstanding with words causes a lot of conflicts. Where in reality, we’re just using the same words differently.
#3 Lack of patience to digest information in communication
Entertain the following two views on how to lose weight:
- Person A: doing CrossFit
- Person B: lifting weights and doing high-intensity cardio
Now, Person A and B have a discussion on how to lose weight.
Person A says CrossFit is “how” you lose weight, while Person B prefers lifting weights and cardio.
A disagreement may then happen on “how” to lose weight.
Person B thinks Person A is stating CrossFit is the only way to lose weight. But Person A was only stating their preference.
This discussion can then take the form of an argument. All because Person B jumped to a conclusion.
#4 Logical fallacies
When one or both sides have logical fallacies, you can’t avoid arguments. This is when someone’s conclusion isn’t justified by their argument.
One person says we’ll never have fusion power because we’re not even close to creating the tech today.
While another person says we’ll have fusion power in 10 years. All because of how fast renewable energy is progressing today.
Both sides have fallacy reasonings in their arguments. This crack in logic means both sides can never agree.
To reach an agreement, both sides need to fix their reasoning errors.
#5 Reasoning ability and information processing methods
This is a touchy one.
To put it bluntly, we’re not all equally smart.
To be fair, in most arguments, one side typically has done more research. Also, they may have spent more time analyzing their data, or they have debate experience.
Thus, they appear smarter.
But, some people don’t have the ability to properly process certain information. Some subjects are just too complex.
Thus, a varying degree of comprehension exists in how we process information. Especially when drilling into complex details, and brainpower becomes a necessity.
I’m speaking of rapid spatial reasoning, memory capacity, and pattern recognition qualities.
Learning complex subjects
Go stick someone in a lecture hall to learn about quantum mechanics. Some people simply can’t learn no matter how the professor presents the material.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. We all have our unique knacks.
But these learning differences weaken one side’s ability to evaluate an argument. Thus, the weakened side defaults to superficial reasoning in their argument.
Frankly, this doesn’t do the argument justice. Some subjects require diving deep to properly present the argument.
In short, one person disagrees because the argument is inaccessible to them.
What’s more, in this process the person finds out they’re dumber than the opposing side. Simply because they can’t process the information and properly present their argument back.
As a result, this unleashes anger within them. Because the argument is questioning their self-worth.
So, even when you know you’re wrong, you’ll disagree. Then you’ll aggressively disagree some more.
You want to protect your ego at all costs.
I want to point out, everyone can become more educated and debate better. Like anything else, it’s a skill you can fine-tune.
#6 Hidden agendas through signaling
A hidden agenda may drive you to choose a side in an argument.
Some people agree just to be liked by someone. While others disagree to show their dislike for someone.
A lot of times I see engineers agree with top tech leaders. All without even understanding the true position of these tech leaders on subjects.
By agreeing, they think they’ll be perceived as a “visionary” through association. This is because the public sees tech leaders as visionaries.
In short, this all boils down to our innate desire to belong and be part of a tribe. Even more so, a perceived elite tribe.
Plus, these engineers don’t want to burn down the proverbial bridge. They may want to one day work under these visionary tech leaders.
Thus, they have a huge disincentive not to disagree.
I find this to be one of the major causes of disagreement in life.
#7 Established core values
People hold all types of differing values. Pick a subject, and you’ll quickly find a Team A and Team B.
For example, one person thinks hoarding materials is the ticket to happiness. While another person thinks relationships trump materials.
A third person then thinks chasing accomplishments unlocks the doors to happiness. While another person argues leaving behind a legacy is pointless in life.
I can go on and on and on.
My point is, life is a melting pot of differing beliefs.
And guess what? That’s totally okay.
But realize, these differing values are causes of disagreement in life.
#8 Competition to protect a given side
We, humans, are a competitive bunch. A disagreement may simply be a covert tactic to protect your tribe.
Or even deeper, it’s a Darwinistic angle.
Arguments can challenge your ethos, reputation, and authority. So some people want to win every argument at all costs.
Even more so, when the arguments have an audience. Because a win is a sure-fire way to level up socially.
For example, choose any political discussion subject like climate change.
If you don’t believe in climate change, you’ll do everything you can to make your side look good. At the same time, you’ll do anything to make the other side look bad.
You’re so entrenched in this contest, you don’t even look at the facts. Even though the facts are all that matter.
BUT, presentation and whit play a role too. They can win an argument that’s supported with shaky facts.
All in all, you’ll become frustrated if you feel you’re losing the argument. You take every argumentative punch personally.
Every counter argument makes you boil up even more inside. You’re simply too proud to ever wave the white flag in defeat.
The evolutionary pursuit of dominance
You disagree because you dislike someone. This subconsciously gives you points over this person.
Why? It’s coded in our genes to crave power.
It’s like the young upcoming silverback gorilla who fights his dad for dominance of the group.
This same behavior exists strongly in us humans.
The loss of an argument you may perceive as the other side gaining power over you. So you fight back no matter how irrational you sound.
You’re emotionally triggered thinking your survival is in question.
Sounds extreme given how much we’ve advanced as a species. But, we’re still biologically wired.
That said, when it comes to disagreements, you need to have a healthy level of skepticism. Is the disagreement about truth, or something else?
Maybe your drive for absolute dominance is to protect your fragile ego, status, or resources.
#9 Fundamental beliefs
Your primary thoughts form from the beliefs instilled in you from a young age.
These beliefs then drive all your arguments. In a way, beliefs are the code in your compiler, or what you call your mind.
So even two people who share the same information processing ability will disagree.
You’ll reach a different conclusion because of your differing code.
In these instances, the argument subject typically touches on a deeply held belief.
So much so, it can feel threatening.
Imagine if I question God’s existence with strong argumentative points.
My points will drive deep inside of you, making you question your core beliefs.
You say to yourself, “could I have been wrong all this time?!”
Fear quickly spreads inside of you. This fear then leads to anger, which triggers hate.
That said, over time you can overcome your primary instilled beliefs. It’s not easy though.
These beliefs are very sticky. You need to chip away at them rigorously for extended periods of time.
At our very core, we all want to protect our own self-interests to some degree. We all are humans still, with biological needs programmed to survive.
The domination instinct is strong inside of us, vibrating with every move we make.
Thus often, people argue only to achieve a single goal. Rather than to have productive discussions.
So, you may disagree with something because it affects your own self-interests. Your argument becomes distorted because of your own needs.
In other words, you blind yourself from the truth. Because the truth will take away something you want.
I find this to be common in academia. You’d think with so many “smart” people, this wouldn’t happen.
But imagine if you study a subject for 40 plus years. In those 40 years, you published countless papers and gave hundreds of speeches.
All of a sudden, a new discovery rips your life’s work apart. You realize you’ve spent most of your life marching in the wrong direction.
Imagine the mental blow, when you and your work are one!
So I get why these academics fight back with every last ounce of energy they have. They’re clawing to escape from this truth to protect their ego.
But in return, they’re hiding the truth from the public. This can stunt a field for decades on end.
To be intellectually dishonest should be a crime…
“Causes of disagreement in life” wrap up
Do your best to identify these causes of disagreement in life as they happen. Whether in yourself or in others.
It’ll make discussions more pleasant.
At the end of the day, discussions with opposing views can be beneficial. You can teach someone something, or you may learn a thing or two yourself.
Just remain respectful, and understand we’re all humans. Yes, we’re ALL imperfect!
Hopefully, we can one day discuss subjects without any outside noise.
Regardless even today, each person is a bag of data that’ll support an argument one way or another.
What are your thoughts on the causes of disagreement in life? What do you think are the root causes of disagreements in life?
Featured Image Photo Credit: David Clode (image cropped)
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Koosha started Engineer Calcs in 2020 to help people better understand the engineering and construction industry, and to discuss various science and engineering-related topics to make people think. He has been working in the engineering and tech industry in California for over 15 years now and is a licensed professional electrical engineer, and also has various entrepreneurial pursuits.
Koosha has an extensive background in the design and specification of electrical systems with areas of expertise including power generation, transmission, distribution, instrumentation and controls, and water distribution and pumping as well as alternative energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and storage).
Koosha is most interested in engineering innovations, the cosmos, our history and future, sports, and fitness.