February / 2021

I am not a political person. This is not a political article.

I try my best to avoid conversations about politics entirely, whether with people I tend to agree with or people I tend to disagree with. It isn’t that I don’t hold political opinions, nor is it that I don’t believe in the value of civil discourse. I avoid these conversations because they are never just conversations – they invariably become confrontations which don’t add value to the topic being discussed.

Sadly, productive and polite disagreement is something that we have collectively lost the ability to engage in. If you need a specific example of this, you haven’t been paying attention. Whether as simple as disputes on social media or as impactful as shouting matches on the Senate floor, we are constantly bombarded with examples of family, friends, neighbors, and well-known cultural figures engaging in arguments that rapidly devolve into distasteful, aggressive, poorly informed, and even hateful rhetoric. We have been exposed to this so often that we seem to have come to the conclusion that it is not only acceptable, but normal.

I am a hard-headed person and I hold my views strongly, whether in business, politics, or any other realm. I disagree with people I care deeply about every single day, including my wife, my boss, and my colleagues. It is very rare, even on disagreements which impact me profoundly, that I will say to myself “This is a hill I’m willing to die on.” At some point in the course of a disagreement, you will reach that decision point – is this something I am willing to fight for to the extent that I risk my relationships, my credibility, my connections, my reputation, or my job? Dying on that hill should be a last resort, never a default.

There are times when it is necessary to fight tooth and nail to get a point across, and there is nothing wrong with being passionate about one’s opinions or positions. We must accept, however, that an opinion is nothing more than a personal conclusion – key word personal. Whether you have reached that personal conclusion through data, facts, observations, assumptions, or other means, it ends with you. You have every right to share that opinion, but the goal of sharing personal conclusions should not be to get everyone you encounter to agree with you (especially if you have to do so through insults, aggression, threat, or force – not something I hoped I would ever have to share as a nugget of wisdom). Sharing one’s opinion should be a mutually beneficial experience with the ultimate goal of uncovering common ground and broadening another person’s worldview. It should not be a zero-sum game.

The beauty of an opinion is that it is yours and yours alone, based on your personal background, upbringing, and life experiences. You should be proud of the opinions you arrive at, but also acknowledge that every other person on this planet will arrive at different conclusions that they have every right to be equally proud of based on their own experiences. Nobody else has the permission or the authority to influence them. Diversity is more valuable than uniformity. 

One of the worst contributors to the sad state of current affairs is the fact that technological advancements have given people a global platform to instantly publish whatever happens to cross their mind. It has allowed information that is false to be spread just as quickly as information that is true and has removed responsibility for verifying or validating the source of opinions. In that culture, there is no accountability. Without accountability, there is no room for respectful disagreement. 

Without civil discourse, we entrench in our own beliefs and close ourselves off from valuable new ideas. More importantly, we isolate ourselves from the people that hold those conflicting beliefs. That kind of isolation puts us in a self-constructed echo chamber, completely eliminating opportunities for self growth and for communal progress. You can build that echo chamber piece by piece, or you can simply agree to disagree and move on knowing that your opinions are just as valid as anyone else’s opinions. For those who see the value in diversity of thought, I personally recommend the latter.

After graduating from the Air Force Academy, Dan served for over five years as an officer in the elite Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) community within Air Force Special Warfare. In that time, he became qualified as an Air Liaison Officer (ALO) and a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), rising quickly to be entrusted with prominent leadership, management, and director roles. Dan partnered with EF Overwatch in 2019 and now works as the Director of Sales for Kahn Mechanical Contractors, a commercial HVAC company in Dallas. He and his wife Lauren live in Flower Mound, Texas.

About the author

Dan Bradley
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After graduating from the Air Force Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree, Dan served for over five years as an officer in the elite Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) community within Air Force Special Warfare. He served as both an operator and an advisor on a combat deployment in 2018 in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Dan partnered with EF Overwatch in 2019 and now works as the Director of Sales for Kahn Mechanical Contractors. He and his wife Lauren live in Flower Mound, Texas. Dan holds a Master of Arts degree in Strategic Leadership from Saint Bonaventure University. He is passionate about mental health advocacy for the veteran community.

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