“Minds are like faces, no two are alike.” That at least is the way I remember the quote as I read it attributed to the Talmud. The line, whether or not remembered correctly, goes a long way as a simple, very reasonable explanation as to why I can agree with a friend on so many things, and disagree on some other very important ones. But it doesn’t answer the question as to why it is so important to us to get the agreement.
Parents of adolescents, and the rest of us with memories of our own adolescence, are familiar with the sign off line “you just don’t understand!” thrown at the parents when the explanation of why driving all night to watch a friend in the final whiffle ball tournament does not garner the desired permission to take the family car. Obviously if to take an action requires agreement than we know why the agreement is important. But why does it feel so important to get agreement on an opinion?
My thoughts take me to this: agreement supports the sense of belonging to each other, or to the group; disagreement is experienced as a disconnect from the other, and possible exclusion from the group. There is a constant play, often times tension between how alike we want to be and how different we want or dare to be. We look for similarities as comforts and while we are willing to differentiate our selves and claim our unique individuality with pride, we rely on our “family resemblance” to keep us safe with each other. Learning how to live with the anxiety that differences provoke is what allows us to engage in a dialogue of discovery.