Disagreements happen. It would be a totally boring world if everyone agreed on everything – then no growth would happen, no progress in science, or anywhere – actually. In my opinion, it isn’t always important to “be understood” – rather I put more weight on “seeking to understand”.

Yet that only gets a person so far.

If your goal is make progress, maybe even to shake up the status quo, then there will always be someone who doesn’t want the status quo changed, or their belief of what is true/good/right challenged. And they will disagree with you. It is, after all, the easy the way out … to just let things stay as they are, or are commonly accepted. It doesn’t cost a lot of brain energy to keep things as they are, after all. Inertia – even mental inertia – is the biggest enemy of growth!

Then there are those that disagree, simply just to disagree. In my experience, these are people that have a history of feeling like they were overlooked and did not receive the recognition they felt they deserved at some point in their life.

There are also those, that disagree because they have a set mindset about something – a belief that, if it were questioned – would change their whole view of how the world works. It is too painful for them to allow for any other variation than their own “truth”.

I love the idea of getting on solid, mutual ground in any disagreement by engaging with the other person through curiosity. Some questions I use to foster curiousity, are:

– What is so important about this for you?
– How is this important to you, personally?
– What kind of experience have you had with xyz – and were there any times that experienced turned out differently than you expected?
– Do you have any role models or examples for this xyz… and what impresses you so much about this role model? 
– Why, do you think, is your role model doing things this way?
– How does what you’re disagreeing with me about, serve you? 
– Let’s imagine we switched places and you were on my side of this disagreement. What would I need to say to you, to get you to understand my side?
– …

Disagreements can be fuel for growth – on both sides! It is how the disagreement is carried through, that demonstrates the maturity of those disagreeing.

Regretfully, we don’t have many role models in politics these days, that are demonstrating good skills at disagreeing in a growth-focused fashion. Too many, “my-way-or-the-highway” examples are being set in the news. Inertia sits deep – and many folks are just following some stated ideology because that is what they’ve always done – it’s the easy way out and they don’t have to exercise their brain cells. People of influence, who are willing to demonstrate how their critical-thinking has brought them to the conclusions they have, why they do what they do, or say what they say, are quite rare these days.

What are you doing to make the most out of a disagreement you may be having? How are you growing when you’re in such a situation?