“When all think alike, no one thinks very much.”~Walter Lippman
One of my clients was complaining about her work team during our session. I usually don’t let my clients complain for very long, as I’ve found that it never really accomplishes very much, but this time I let her go on for a bit, as I wanted to fully understand what was at the heart of her complaints.
And then it became clear – she was frustrated, angry in fact, that her work team seemed to disagree about so many things. “Why can’t it be easier?” she asked. “Why do they have to see everything so differently, and to push me to see it that way too?”
I know many of us feel that way. We’re certain that things are too difficult and people sometimes disagree with us just to disagree. We want life to be smoother and more of those we work with and live with to see things as we do. The reality is that we’re better off with this disagreement, with this dissension and various points of view. Because as much as we may hate it, and try and avoid it, conflict is a good thing. At least it can be if it’s managed and managed well.
Without conflict and dissension, we’d all simply agree with each other and move on, and we might never find better solutions or new ways to approach problems. If everyone thought as we did, we wouldn’t have to think things through – including our own assumptions, beliefs, and decisions – to make sure we weren’t missing anything. And we’d therefore be more likely to miss things.
If everyone thought as we did, we wouldn’t be challenged as much or grow as much. We wouldn’t learn as much and adapt as much. It might be easier to have everyone think as you do, but it wouldn’t be better. We need differences of opinion and varying points of view and contrasting perspectives to help us see the world in new ways and embrace new ideas. And some of the best ways to encourage varied thoughts are easy:
- ask others what they think
- really listen to their answers
- question our own thinking, looking for flaws and gaps
- turn to people we usually ignore, or miss, for input and suggestions
- open our minds to other possibilities
So I let my client complain for a little while longer, and then I reminded her of all these things. I reminded her that she learned more, was a better leader, and developed in so many ways from the discord within her work group. I told her that I disagreed with how she was looking at this situation. That I thought differently than her. That caused her to stop and think…and smile.
How has disagreement and discord helped you to think differently?
Please leave a comment.
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Thank you for this post! Though discord and disagreement are really the last thing that I want, I am recognizing its value. Sifting through different opinions and lines of thought encourages me to see the bigger picture, and perhaps what my colleagues (or family for that matter) are really trying to get at. Thanks again, N.
Thank you for your comment, Nzingha. Great to hear from you!
Your observation is so true — our ability to move through the discomfort of conflict and disagreement allows us to achieve greater understanding and appreciation of the people around us.