Family disagreements reaffirm beliefs

Of all the apples in my family, I’m the apple that fell far from the tree. The lone Democrat in a family of conservative Republicans, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My dad and I talk politics more than anyone else in my family, and I’ve come to enjoy our weekly exchange of beliefs and ideas. And here’s why. My father challenges my positions — he creates conflict.

Margaret Heffernan, a self-proclaimed “management thinker,” explores this relationship between conflict and cooperation in her popular TED Talk, “Dare to Disagree.” ,

“Thinking partners who aren’t echo chambers (are a) fantastic model of cooperation,” she said in the TED Talk.

Let me tell you, my father and I are certainly not echo chambers. We don’t have the luxury of assuming we’ll understand each other, so we have to be patient and maintain our tempers as frustrating as our conversations might be.

I am better at presenting my political beliefs because of my father and the conflict he creates during our discussions.

Conflict isn’t bad, in fact it is vital in fostering dialogue among different audiences. If one thinks of conflict as an opportunity to think, it becomes much less intimidating.

People often assume it’s a hassle having parents in the opposite party. Yes, Thanksgiving dinner can get messy, frustrating and aggravating, but different opinions open up the floor for discussion. I’m not asking that everyone agree. My parents and I certainly don’t, but we’ve come to understand each other’s positions by engaging in constructive dialogue.

When my father plays devil’s advocate, he’s not trying to prove me wrong. Rather, he’s encouraging me to think about my political positions rather than just talk about them.

Later in her talk, Heffernan says that in order to become more independent and confident thinkers, we must seek out people who think differently from ourselves.

Luckily, that person is my father. Having a parent with different political beliefs from my own has helped to solidify my own. I am confident when talking about my position on controversial issues and I can defend myself when challenged; because I’ve done it before.

I may have fallen far from the tree, but I’ve made sure to stay in touch with it. And because of that, I have grown so much more than if I had stayed under its branches.

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