"I disagree…" should be celebrated, not stricken
In today’s politically correct world, conflict is avoided seemingly at all costs. But without active conflict management, good decisions cannot be made. I propose we need more tolerance rather than more sensitivity.
As a sign of how overly far sensitivity has gone, we were once told not to use the phrase “bull in a china shop” because it would be offensive to Chinese. Huh? If you can make sense of that one, please let me know.
The simple phrase of “I disagree” has seemed to have taken on the meaning of negativity, of bad behavior, and of disrespect. I believe few things demonstrate respect more than the willingness to say “I disagree” and then proceed with an adult discussion.
This is especially important when teams are trying to collaborate. Collaboration, brainstorming, and creativity depend upon teams living within the conflict and exploring it fully.
In Death by Meeting, Patrick Lencioni demonstrates the importance of conflict in meetings. You cannot resolve differences without surfacing and dealing with conflict. And you cannot make decisions without disagreements and differences of opinion.
I am not saying that you need to be blunt, disagreeable (different than saying “I disagree”), or nasty. We can be polite, civil, and demonstrate respect while saying “I disagree”. Perhaps we’ve been watching too much politics where “I disagree” turns into “that guy is evil and will destroy everything you hold dear.”
What can you do?
- When you disagree, say so. Then explain why.
- When others disagree, react with curiosity, not scorn.
- Invite exploration into disagreement.
How does your organization handle conflict? Does it invite it, or discourage it? Is it sensitive, or can it have adult conversations?