Maybe it is because we just ended February or because it is an election year, but I have been thinking a lot about disagreement. It is not just that we disagree, but how we disagree that causes so many issues. I wanted to take some time during the month of March to share some thoughts about disagreement and perhaps show how we can move past these disagreements to accomplish great things together.
Disagreements begin when people do not understand each other. When a person comes into a conversation focused on wanting a particular point of view to be heard and is not willing to invest any time trying to understand the opposing POV, trouble is lurking around the corner. If we are open to the belief that most of us are more alike than we are different, we can begin to at least tolerate, and maybe even appreciate, a different point of view. This does not mean we have to agree with others in all instances, just that we are open to hearing them out.
When the focus is on differences, we create a negative narrative about others and their beliefs in our heads. The space between people grows wider. When we seek out commonalities, our feelings are more positive, and we focus on bridging gaps. So in any disagreement we must first seek to understand and appreciate different points of view before anything can be accomplished.
Productive disagreement can help us mend bridges and improve our understandings of areas of debate. Unproductive disagreements, where sides are not willing to try to understand each other, drive us further apart. Therefore, disagreements happen because people allow them to happen. Disagreement is, therefore, a people problem, not an issue problem.
Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to take a look at a few ways that can make disagreeing a productive process rather than a negative one.