Honest disagreement is a sign of progress

“Honest disagreement is a sign of progress” – that’s what Ghandi said. Among all the interesting workshops that will be held at the Zaragora, we focus on “The art of constructive disagreement , that will be held by Ivan Bielik (AEGEE-Brno) on behalf of the International Politics Working Group (IPWG), whom we interviewed for you.

The AEGEEan: The expression “constructive disagreement” may sound a bit like an oxymoron and people tend to feel attacked and to stay closed in their position when other have different opinions, so how can disagreement be constructive?
Ivan: Disagreement is an essential element of human life. The reason is that if two of us disagree about something, we are on the way to talk about things and to come up with some compromise and solution. This situation cannot happen when both of us agree about something. The word “constructive” means that two or more people disagree about a subject in a manner in which they are devoting their effort not to insult each other’s ideas, but to find the best or the most appropriate solution. It is an approach that matters. In other words, well-developed and persuasive arguments should prevail in the discussion, not populist or misleading ones.

Debating, therefore comparing your ideas, leads to a cultural growth of course, but why should it be considered an art?
It is an art, because it requires skills which you can learn throughout all your life. You cannot paint a Mona Lisa portrait on your own without learning how to paint. You have to practice your painting skills and then you might create a masterpiece. In debating it is the same. It is a never-ending process. You need to learn the skills of debating, practice them with other people and then you might gain the ability and confidence to speak in the public or to persuade other people. Without learning and practicing these skills, you are not able to become a good speaker. In ancient Greece and Rome public speaking was highly appreciated in the community. I do not see a reason why it should not be the same in our age.

How can members benefit from this workshop?
Debating stimulates critical and creative thinking through a non-formal and entertaining educative process. Moreover, it develops crucial soft-skills which are important for a future careers, skills such as creating and defending opinions or clear expression of ideas and self-confidence.

Quite often it happens that some people don’t give their opinions, which are different from those already presented, because they are shy or don’t feel at ease to speak in public. Do you think this workshop will help those people?
My workshop is exactly for this kind of people. They should not be afraid to come out of their comfort zone. We will do special exercises where the participants can gain their self-confidence in speaking in front of an audience.

What is the aim of the workshop? Why should members attend it?
The aim of the workshop is to stimulate creative and critical thinking among AEGEE members and to build a positive approach of young people towards participation in the public deliberation, be it at the Agora, at university or in their home town. And why should they attend it? I believe that debating is a special non-formal educative tool which challenges your thinking, cultivates your civic virtues and builds personal self-confidence.

Written by Cosmina Bisboaca, AEGEE-Torino