Openly Disagreeing Can Be a Good Thing
By Michael Heath
When we hear “argument” mentioned the first thing that comes to mind is two people locked in a verbal fight. Raised voices, red-faced anger, even personal attacks are associated with the word. Unfortunately, most outright quarrels solve nothing. Two people go at each other never realizing that there is likely a solution behind the war of words. Conflict can actually be a very good thing provided it is managed.
Disagreements are Everywhere
There is a famous episode in The Twilight Zone where a character named Rocky finds that life is an uphill struggle, believing his very existence is a living hell. He decides to rob a pawn shop where a gunfight with a cop ensues. Rocky is shot only to wake up unharmed. A white-haired gentleman instructs Rocky that he can have everything he wants with no effort at all. Rocky is freely handed the $700 cash that he asks for, women fawn over him, and at the casino he wins every bet placed. Soon Rocky finds the easy life of heaven boring and asks to go to “the other place.” The white-haired gentleman responds in a malevolent voice that Rocky is already in the other place.
Always agreeing with one another may sound like paradise, but the truth is it isn’t. When handled correctly, conflict contributes to creating multiple ideas, learning better processes, and eventually positive outcomes. Spouses, employer and employee, or a parent and child who simply agree all the time never discover new ways of doing things. It is in the conflict that fresh paths are generated. Spouses can use disagreements to learn more about one another and even grow the relationship. Workplace conflict that is respectful spawns innovation, encourages robust decision-making, and even improves communication. Childhood rebellion is nature’s way of causing youngsters to grow past mom and dad’s protection. As a single father I thought my way was best for my youngest son. Most times it probably was, but not always. As my son got older it is a good thing that he often pushed past my best intentions. Conflict led to a boy’s self-development through new experiences to which this protective father may have been a barrier.
I recall a college philosophy class taken many years ago where the professor asked us, “When is an argument not a dispute?” Answer: when reasons are laid out in a persuasive way. People can and should present their side of an issue when there is a disagreement. When there is respect, empathy, active listening, and open communication along with a dash of compromise, progress can be made. Consider what is possible when “good” fights occur:
Keeping Interactions in Mediation Sessions Focused on the Solutions
Mediation or collaborative divorce sessions are not intended to be hug fests. Conflict is inevitable and divorcing couples can become passionate during the negotiation process. Both parties need to go into the meetings with a mindset focused on success with the knowledge of how to achieve it. When spouses see disagreements as mere stumbling blocks on the way to a divorce settlement, breakthroughs are bound to occur.