“When People Disagree”
Put two people in a room and one thing’s pretty certain: Eventually there will be a disagreement about something. What happens next much of the time is that each person tries to prove that he or she is right and the other person is wrong about whatever it is they disagree on.
It’s human nature. And it’s what damages even destroys–relationships, trust and productivity in the workplace.
Defending your viewpoint is natural because when there’s a disagreement, something you believe in is being challenged. You’re defending what you believe to be true and proving that a different view is faulty, say Warren Schmidt and BJ Gallagher Hateley, authors of Is It Always Right To Be Right? (Amacom.) You will tend to see the other person as an opponent to defeat, rather than someone who might teach you something.
Determined to maintain your position at all costs, you become frozen in your “rightness.” And until someone becomes unentrenched from their position and says, “Uh, maybe I was wrong,” you can’t see fellow workers and good people. You only see adversaries.
There are plenty of rewards for being this determined to be right, the authors add. It makes us feel superior. We get to do things our way and feel in control–not controlled by someone else. We confirm our beliefs. We win. And victory is sweet.
It’s how that victory was achieved that’s critical, they say. Because just being right doesn’t work. Typically, two people in conflict are trying to change each other’s beliefs or behavior. Making him or her wrong doesn’t make that person want to change. It makes someone either retreat or attack. That’s also human nature.
“People need space to change and keep their self-respect and dignity,” they say. You need room to search for a compromise and view the disagreement as a learning opportunity, not a contest. They suggest you:
Take a break by walking away from the situation to clear your mind.
State clearlyódon’t evaluateóboth points of view, so you both understand what the other is saying.
In your mind, think about why the other person feels so strongly about their point of view, and why you feel so strongly about yours.
Review the data you have if the disagreement is about facts and consider the possibility that your recollection is off.
When you can get to the point of joining together to work out your common interests, you’ll learn how “two rights can make a serious mistake.” How “little wisdom there is in defending a narrow right and how much wisdom there is in seeking a broader understanding.” And finally, how “little courage it takes to point the finger of blame, and how much courage it takes to extend the hand of partnership.”