By Matt McIntyre

Organisations are finding that since working from home along with a more modern outspoken world their culture is quickly changing. With many people being more outspoken about their feelings around the working environment it is good for organisations to take a step back and look at how they can train their leaders to deal with the culture change. In this blog, our own Matt McIntyre has their say on the art of disagreeing without being able to disagree.

Recently I was half watching one of the many different Real Housewives of… shows, where the reality stars were brought back together for a reunion episode. It very quickly descended into total chaos, with accusations, finger-pointing, deflection and a blame game flying around the studio as each of them would try to get their points across, by talking over each other, in ever-increasing volumes.

I was amazed to see these intelligent people when confronted and clearly in the wrong, never listen or apologise but they would double down and come out fighting with increasing volatility.

Sadly, we see similar signs in politics today, across the globe. We seem to live in a time when we have forgotten how to disagree with each other because we have forgotten how to listen to others’ points of view when they are different from our own.

Many feel that it is more important to get their point across, argue their perspective or their truth than it is to use empathy and begin to understand why the other party feels so strongly about their position.
The consequence of this modern-day stance is that we will begin to avoid associating with people whose opinions differ from ours and replace them with like-minded individuals, thus creating either real life or social media-induced ‘echo chambers.’
We create an environment that resonates with our approving perspectives. In of itself that doesn’t seem too much of an issue, and in fact, may make life seem easier. The challenge can be that we compound our view of the world to the extent that we form a world of exclusion rather than inclusion.
So how to fix this relationship epidemic? The following three principles will help to move us from our self-imposed echo chambers to being illuminated by different perspectives, opinions, or ideas.

  1. Accept there will be conflict. The first step is to acknowledge that as we interact with others, we will come across differing opinions, some we will disagree with. Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, once said that “When two men agree, one becomes unnecessary.” Differing opinions are not necessarily wrong, deluded or even dangerous. It can be both illuminating and a source of new ideas.
  2. What are they seeing that I am not? There is a golden rule/principle to remember when dealing with others– there is always a reason why. To avoid becoming disagreeable with our differences it is critical to understand why they think, feel, or even believe this way – remember, there is always a reason why. In Stephen Covey’s famous book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Habit 5 is to ‘Seek First To Understand Before Being Understood’. This simple yet powerful principle is an opposite to what is practiced in our modern world. Spend time asking good probing questions and really listening to the responses, so you can understand their why. He also states most people will listen to respond rather than truly listening to understand. It is important to realise that our tendency is to ‘judge others by their actions, but ourselves by our intentions’. We should be trying to answer the question – What is behind the view that we see in others?
  3. Focus on where we agree, not where we don’t. This final principle will help us to change our focus from the stumbling block of ‘this is why we disagree’ to the progressive mindset of ‘these are the areas where we can and do agree’. Changing to this mindset will allow us to avoid getting trapped in the potential quagmire that comes along with having a different opinion, mindset, idea or outlook to others. Mahatma Gandhi once said that “Honest disagreement is often a sign of progress”.

In conclusion, if we interact with other human beings, there will be conflict. The principles to help us effectively deal with these potential problems are acknowledging that it will happen, seeking first to understand before attempting to be understood and finally focusing on areas where you agree. The famous American Pastor, Dave Willis once said – “One of the truest signs of maturity is the ability to disagree with someone while still remaining respectful.”

To learn how we can help support your organisation through culture change visit our main page here. Or contact us here.