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The art of productive disagreement.

Why Are We Yelling?

Why Are We Yelling?

by Buster Benson

The Art of Productive Disagreement

Most of us are weary of disagreement, so a claim that disagreement can be productive is intriguing.

Some of the common misconceptions with respect to disagreement are:

  • Arguments are bad.
  • They change people’s minds.
  • They come to an end.

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  1. Truth 1: Arguments aren’t bad – They’re signposts to issues that need our attention.
  2. Truth 2: Arguments aren’t about changing minds – They are about bringing minds together.
  3. Truth 3: Arguments don’t end – They have deep roots and will pop back up again and again, asking us to...

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This is the internal voice that will tell you things such as “Take it or leave it” or “My way or the highway”. The voice of power isn't the ultimate conflict-resolution strategy, because you can’t argue with sheer force. Benson states that this what power does – it forcibly closes down arguments ...

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This is the internal voice which will tell you things such as “Why?” or “That doesn’t add up”. The voice of reason is all about using reasons to shut down a debate. Benson argues that the voice of reason works best in situations where you have disagreements with people who share respect for the s...

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This is the internal voice that tells you things such as “I would prefer not to” or “Leave me out of it”.

Conflict avoiders have identified flaws in the voices of power and reason and so have chosen to address conflicts by simply refusing to participate in them in the first place.

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The fourth voice, which is missing during a disagreement is the voice of possibility.

This muted voice seeks to make conflict productive. This voice resonates in questions like:

  • What are we missing?
  • What else is possible?
  • What else can we do with what we have?

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The voice of possibility encourages us very explicitly not to do what the other three voices – power, reason and avoidance – have made habitual in us, which is to find a way to uproot and kill the conflict. We need to develop ‘honest bias’ and listen to the fourth voice of possib...

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Make use of the following steps to implement the fourth voice:

  • Watch how anxiety sparks inside the mind. 
  • Talk to your internal voices.
  • Develop honest bias – There is no cure for bias, but we can develop an honest relationship to our own bias with self-reflection.

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  1. When you notice anxiety, pause and ask yourself: are you anxious about what is true, what is meaningful, or what is useful?
  2. Ask the other party the same question. Do they give the same answer or something different?
  3. Narrate out loud what each of you is anxious about. Reiterat...

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