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The Power of Disagreement

“Monday evening, on my way to the supermarket to get groceries, I receive a text message from my colleague Thomas. Every meeting he had that day escalated to a huge disagreement but resulted with a surprisingly great outcome. He wonders if there is such thing as the power of disagreement.

Elaborating on the subject a bit further, we stumble upon a quote by Mahatma Gandhi.
Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.

Sending text messages back and forth, we conclude that the power of disagreement relies upon mutual respect and trust. The same applies to an agreement. It requires fairness and straightforwardness of conduct and an adherence to the facts. Honesty, in other words.

So, we’ve structured our thoughts a bit:

Honest Disagreement

Honest Agreement
Synergy is the creation of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. There is a reason why opposites attract, opposites complement each other. Working together mostly with people that are too like-minded, we forget to challenge our thoughts. Although Honest Agreements might feel comfortable, it can cause stagnation rather than synergy.

Dishonest Agreement
Like the emperor and his new clothes, it is essential that we occasionally receive and give critical feedback. Feeling insecure to make mistakes, people prefer to keep their mouth shut rather than running the risk of saying something perceived to be wrong or hurting feelings. Although Dishonest Agreements seem innocent, in the long run the lack of critical feedback can cause fundamental problems due to a sudden pitfall.

Dishonest Disagreement
We are wrong even when we are right, when we are having a debate for the wrong reasons. Dishonest Disagreements often happen in a toxic environment and cause a cycle of self-perpetuating downward decline.

Honest Disagreement
In an environment with trust and respect, people open their perspectives and feel confident to challenge their thoughts and those of others. Honest Disagreements are necessary for progress, under the condition that people listen to understand and not only with the intent to reply.

The last message I sent that evening is, “great, but too bad we don’t disagree.” Author Cris Bartels