The way we disagree has an impact on the quality of our work, the resilience of our relationships, and our ability to influence others. When we disagree better, we change the conversation. And when we change the conversation, we change lives.
If you’re new here, this short manifesto will show you what I hold close in my conflict resolution work and what conflict resolution premises I reject. .
A messenger, not a pathology
Let’s stop pathologizing conflict and anger. Conflict is not an inability to get along or be a team player. Anger is not a personality flaw. Conflict and anger are messengers. They are trying tell us something and they’ll escalate until we listen. Best to pause and listen, then. When we learn to notice the signal and translate the message — theirs or our own — we disagree better.
An equal human, not a difficult one
Conflict has a way of making us home in on what’s wrong with them. Psychologist Jeffrey Kottler reminds us, “Every person you fight with has many other people in his life with whom he gets along quite well.” To disagree better, we have to resist the superficial, too-easy diagnosis, “difficult person,” and look diligently for their humanity equal to ours. It is there.
You cannot look at a person who seems difficult to you without also looking at yourself.
– Jeffrey Kottler
Buffering, not preventing
Robust disagreement is a hallmark of creative, effective workplace teams. Couples can have big fights and frequent conflict yet still have healthy, fulfilling, and lasting relationships. It’s not discord itself that determines if the relationship survives and thrives — it’s what we do when we disagree. We have it in our hands to learn and use approaches that buffer our important relationships from the negative effects of conflict.
Happiness comes from between.
– Jonathan Haidt, psychologist
The “between,” not only agreements
In ongoing personal and business relationships, reaching agreement shouldn’t be our primary goal. Agreements matter, but they’re best seen as way stations on your way to taking care of “the between,” the air between you and them. Haidt said, “Happiness is not something that you can find, acquire, or achieve directly. You have to get the conditions right.” To disagree better in ongoing relationships at work and home, “the between” needs more attention than any argument-ending agreement.
If these ideas resonated with you, will you join me in exploring and bringing to life the ways we can disagree better? We’ll start with seven proven practices you can use immediately. One a day for a week + monthly road-tested conflict resolution tools delivered to your inbox. No spam, unsubscribe anytime.
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