Wednesday, July 22, 2009


What do you do when someone disagrees with you?

I know what I want to do - get upset because they don't see it my way. Get indignant because surely they are being hard-headed when it is obvious that I am right.

The problem is, there are an amazing number of times when people disagree with me - like every day with my kids.

Interestingly, one person argues that there really is no such thing as wrong or right in a disagreement:

About seventy years ago, an American political scientist, Mary Parker Follet, said that when you have dissent in an organization, you should never ask who is right. You should not even ask what is right. You must assume that each faction gives the right answer, but to a different question. Each sees a different reality. (Peter Drucker Managing The Nonprofit Organization, 124)

It is as simple as trying to understand that the answer or position of the other person makes sense to them, possibly through a number of reasons: their past, their environment, their education, their views of themselves, and so on.

Rather than winning, our task should be mutual understanding. Why does that person think that way?

It certainly doesn't mean that they will end up agreeing with you. From a 10-year old's perspective, cleaning the room doesn't make a lot of sense and I'm probably not going to convince her that it should. But we can come to a mutual understanding, and decide on action from there. It's not easy (she'll tell you the same!) but maybe we'll learn a more important lesson - the value of listening, because the other person is worth it. And the dissipation of negative energy and time is far more productive than venting anyway.

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