Lessons in Disagreeing Well
We’re living in a world today that is divided in so many ways. Across so many issues, we find ourselves disagreeing on how we see things. Unfortunately, how we’re approaching those differences has become a weakness in many ways.
Read that last sentence again.
The way we’re approaching those differences has become a weakness in many ways. The differences aren’t the weakness; it’s our approach to them. What if there was a way, in our businesses and personal lives, to turn those differences in perspective into our greatest strength? There is, and here’s one take on how to do that…
For us at OrangeBall, we have three partners who lead and guide our business. We’re each very different, with different backgrounds and preferences. Like any group or family, once you bring more than one perspective into any conversation, you immediately create an opportunity for disagreement. Many would see these disagreements as being bad. We see them as being one of our most significant advantages.
Think of it like this. If always being in agreement was the goal, it would be easier to lead with teams of one. One voice, one perspective, one direction. There would be no room for disagreement because there would only be one voice to listen to. Conflict would disappear completely.
One voice, though, would mean that we’re making decisions based on one person’s experiences, knowledge, and insights – in a bubble. There’s no depth in that approach. Instead, when you add differing perspectives, you multiply the experiences, knowledge, and insights – and you open the door to making smarter, more informed decisions.
Many times, it can be tempting to surround ourselves with people who think like us, act like us, look like us, and make decisions like us. That feels comfortable. But that comfort leads us back to a situation where we’re still leaning on one voice and one perspective to make decisions. Even though there may be multiple people in the room, there’s no diversity in our thinking, approaches, or conversations.
Diversity opens the door to new thinking, different approaches, and conversations where we challenge the status quo. When we open ourselves to spending time and energy with people who think differently, we create space for growth. Our ability to share ideas, challenge one another, and push each other’s boundaries creates infinite possibilities.
Three things need to be in play here to turn our differences from a weakness to a strength. First, we need to be able to trust the people we’re sharing with, confident that their disagreement and challenges come from a place of goodness. Second, we need to humble ourselves, stepping back and acknowledging that we don’t know everything. Third, and possibly most important, we need to have minds that are open to new ideas and not rooted in “this is how it’s always been done” mentality.
One of the other keys to leveraging our differences is to have a strong foundation. If we can create a list of our core values and ideals we can all agree on as our baseline, it makes it much easier to navigate the areas where we differ in opinion. The core values, when they really become our core, hold everything else together.
What does this look like in practice? Remember those three OrangeBall partners we mentioned in the beginning. Here’s a reality check. We don’t always agree. Sometimes we have to make tough decisions, and we’re not all on the same page. Sometimes we challenge one another and poke holes in each other’s thinking. And that’s OK. It’s actually better than OK… it’s awesome!
Over the last twenty years, we’ve learned that we’re all in this for the same things and that our goals are aligned. We approach each other every day with trust, humility, and open minds – and that’s how we’ve turned our disagreements into a strength. Frankly, it’s how we’ve made a three-way partnership thrive. We show up in each moment knowing that we’re smarter and stronger together than we would be alone.
Stretch out your boundary lines and step out of your comfort zone. Professionally or personally, be intentional to have conversations with people who possess different ideas, experiences, and perspectives. Open yourself up to learn from them, and you will grow in surprising ways.
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