July 22, 2010 by Jeff Hurt
As a child, one minute I would be fighting with my sister over who was going to sit in that special chair. The next minute we would be playing together as if nothing ever happened.
Our disagreements would flare and then we would move on to other things. We were quick to disagree without being disagreeable. Our disagreements did not become barriers to living, playing and working together. Our disagreements were not stopping places for failure.
My sister and I actually have a long-standing disagreement about who broke the lamp. We both smile whenever one of us mentions it.
I was in elementary school and my sister was just staring kindergarten. We were tumbling and doing cartwheels in the living room. Our tumbling turned into a light-hearted pillow fight. Then one of us accidentally hit a lamp with the pillow. Naturally, it fell off the table and broke. The unfortunate thing was that lamp was a gift from my grandmother to my parents. We both blamed each other for the incident.
What’s amazing about this life-long disagreement is that we joke about it often without pushing each other’s buttons. We have mastered the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable.
Recently two bloggers I regularly read have both addressed the issue of conversations and disagreement.
Amber Naslund of Brass Tack Thinking wrote Disagreement Vs. Disagreeable.
Amber says, “Conflicting ideas, dissenting viewpoints, differing opinions are healthy and a really good thing. They stretch our minds, broaden our perspectives, and help us understand people and their motivations just a little bit more.”
I like her statement. I suspect you do too.
She states that sometimes we “…ferociously defend our right.” Yep, I can identify with that statement. And she discusses how disagreements can disintegrate into a “quick to lynch” mentality. I concur and even sometimes resemble that view too. (My bad! Is there a hidden camera in my office?)
Valeria Maltoni of Conversation Agent wrote How To Kill A Conversation.
She says, “I encounter so many who enter conversation as if it were a boxing ring. Rational arguments raised as fists in both a protective and aggressive stance.”
I’ve experienced that when people accuse me of having an ulterior motive or agenda. And, I’ve even been the one with raised fists. I prefer open arms to raised fists any day.
Valeria continues with some great clarifying questions that helps people explore conversations with differing views. She is a wise women.
Social media opens the door to allowing people to voice their opinions, thoughts and ideas. Sometimes those ideas are contrary to our own thoughts and perspectives. Sometimes they are likeminded. No matter what the perspective, it’s how we respond to differing viewpoints that tell us a lot about ourselves.
Oh and regarding that broken lamp. When my sister and I became adults, we found out that Mom actually hated that lamp. She told us that it had a crack in it when she got it. She was actually glad that we knocked it off the table and broke it. I think she actually broke the lamp.
In today’s society of open dialogue and communication, we could all use a little more practice at exploring conversations with differing views. It’s definitely a skill we need to acquire for online and conference conversations. The more we practice it, the better we’ll become at it and the more we all learn. Who knows? We might just discover later that there are other facts we didn’t originally know that would change the entire discussion.
How does your organization invite differing views and perspectives? What tips can you offer for learning to disagree without being disagreeable?
Filed Under: Social Media
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Love this post – for my brother and I, it’s a broken rocking chair that’s still up for debate.
Crucial Conversations by Patterson/Grenny/McMillan & Switzler is a favorite of mine and speaks to this Disagreement v Disagreeable dynamic.
Crucial Conversations are defined as instances when:
* Stakes are high
* Opinions vary
* Emotions run strong
According to research by the authors, when crucial conversations bubble up, 70% of the time, people retreat to silence.
A long time ago I was an academic doing experimental high energy particle physics.
In that culture, if you heard something you thought was “wrong” you jumped in and corrected the person’s “mistake”. There was no put-down implied; we were just rational beings efficiently pointing out errors so we could efficiently explore the mysteries of science.
It took me some time to understand that people outside my work culture usually took such bald corrections personally. Even today, thirty years later, I’ll still occasionally be told (or sense) I’m coming across as brusque during conversation.
So I’ve learned that it’s possible to be disagreeable when disagreeing without even having an intent to be disagreeable. Something worth bearing in mind…
When I was working in Europe I often was told I didn’t seem like other Americans they’d met. Evidently as a country we have a reputation for being opinionated buttheads who take any difference of opinion personally. After living there for a while I realized that most Americans I encountered overseas didn’t know how to agree to disagree or even attempt to see where the other person was coming from, choosing instead to just boorishly attempt to convince any dissenters they were wrong. Since coming home, it looks like that childish approach is in evidence everywhere, from Facebook to the floor of the Senate and national news broadcasts. It’s pretty embarrassing.
Thanks for the book recommendation. I’ve added it to my summer reading list. Looks good.
Thanks for adding that personal story. I agree that some in our society take things personally and have a hard time with disagreement. I think we like to be right. 🙂
Thanks for adding your thoughts. I lived in Germany for a while in my early 20s and agree with you that many Europeans have mastered the art of open discussion and disagreement. We seem to think that if we yell louder, we can exert some influence on a situation and change people’s minds. Yelling and defending our POV at all costs doesn’t seem to help further conversations at all. We need more leaders that are willing to listen and respect others POV.
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