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What Does It Really Mean to "Agree to Disagree"?

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Have you ever been in a discussion (that feels more like a debate) and out of frustration, someone says, “Ok, let's agree to disagree”? This apathetic and exhausted response to disagreement is giving it a bad rap! Disagreement can be a good thing! So how can we successfully agree to disagree?

In organizational culture, this is called positive dissent -- the ability to disagree in a positive way while maintaining connection, trust, and respect for others’ point of view.

When you don't agree with a viewpoint being shared or when you find yourself struggling to understand another person’s perspective, don't look at disagreement as a bad thing but rather a challenge that can result in engagement and empowerment.

In her 2012 TedTalk, “Dare to Disagree,” Margaret Heffernen points out that within American corporations, 85 percent of executives acknowledge that they've refrained from raising issues or concerns because they didn't want to cause conflict.

Does that resonate with you? Do you fear making your disagreement known? Do you find yourself deciding it's not worth the risk? Here are some actions you can take to begin changing the culture at your workplace, in your relationships, and in your home when it comes to disagreeing with each other.

1. Get proactive

85 percent of executives acknowledge that they’ve refrained from raising issues or concerns because they didn’t want to cause conflict.

Talk about how important it is for all viewpoints to be shared in a safe environment. Set this expectation often and always before a brainstorming session or problem addressing/solving meeting.

2. Set boundaries

You may already be thinking this is risky...asking some people to speak their minds can quickly get out of hand. As a part of setting expectations, boundaries must be set to keep negativity and divisive language out of the discussion entirely. Get full buy-in on this before moving into your discussion.

3. Harvest innovation

Often, disagreement brings contrasting innovations that are unseen or unrealized. Challenge yourself and other participants to share new ideas. Be bold to shake things up and kick the status quo out the door!

When you begin changing your culture to become one that encourages people to speak their minds and to challenge respectfully, you'll see everyone contributing at their highest level -- an essential ingredient for a genuinely inclusive, collaborative, and innovative discussion.