Discomfort with disagreement is not a character flaw!

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The power of disagreement and conflict – Part 2

Accept that your discomfort with disagreement is not a character flaw – it is just your brain doing its thing. Rather learn to use the discomfort as energy to hone your ability to engage skillfully in such conversations.

It is easy to explain why conversations involving disagreement and conflicts are challenging. Expressing disagreement with someone triggers at least two of the major factors that give rise to a threat response in our brains. Expressing disagreement creates a loss of relationship. We’re saying “we’re not in the same camp on this”. And saying that I disagree with you is also saying “I think you’re wrong” – threatening your status.

No wonder that we’re feeling threatened in conversations like this. No wonder that we have to deal with a flood of emotions that get triggered when we get into such conversations. Our brains go into a threat state, leaving fewer cognitive resources for all the other things needed for such conversations: Monitoring and managing our own emotions, keeping an eye open for the reactions of our conversations partner and being able to adjust our behaviour, open and flexible thinking, perspective taking, creative solution generating. Accepting that this is part and parcel of handling conflict and disagreement can be quite liberating. Instead of “fearing the fear” that kicks in when we’re faced with such conversations, just knowing that this is normal – and something we can learn to manage – is very comforting.

The great news is that any investment we make in enhancing this particular aspect of our Conversation Intelligence™ will pay off in many other areas of living, working and leading. These skills do, however, require such an investment. There are no simple formulas and tactics that will transform our ability to skilfully and constructively engage with others in conversations around disagreement and conflict. It requires us to develop both greater emotional and social intelligence. We also need to become more skilled at noticing what’s happening in our environment to know what conversations to initiate with whom. And we do need to master some core conversation skills to a much higher level. All of this can be done, if we’re willing to step to it.

Next: Focus on the benefits of having constructive conversations around disagreements and conflicts

Previous: Conversations that leverage the creative power of disagreements

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