Why is it that, so often, people regard conflict and disagreement as synonymous? "Why can't we all just not get along?"
So my quoting Dick Solomon from 3rd Rock from the Sun in his "Why can't we all just not get along?" speech is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but there are some important sentiments in there, including the importance of an allegiance to the truth, even if it leads to offense. Of course, in my view, we can disagree about things, people can be flat-out wrong, and yet, we can perfectly well "get along". ("just not get along", properly understood, is maybe "just disagree without manufacturing unnecessary conflict".)
What is the precondition of constructive disagreement? How can we disagree without its turning into contentious, acrimonious, adversarial, argumentative, unpleasant conflict?
Some factors to consider:
- tone of voice
- assumption of positive intent
- a context of mutual trust, respect, and understanding one another; feeling like we're on the same team
- "I'm imagining that..." (which I learned from Circling and my therapist)
- "The story I'm telling myself is..." (which I learned from Brené Brown and which she calls a "shitty first draft")
- "I" statements, including "I'm feeling x because y, and I wish z." (thank you, Positive Discipline)
- the role of "compromise"
- apologizing and forgiveness
- listening for agreement (thank you, Harriet Lerner)
- contrast to how defensiveness can lead to listening for disagreement and the creation of a mental list of points to argue against while the other person is talking until they shut up so that you can tell them how they're wrong about x, y, and z
- listening for what's behind the literal words being used (thank you again, Harriet Lerner)
- understanding the other person's cognitive and emotional context
- our own responsibility in experiencing offense (and all other feelings)
- insecurity, defense mechanism, armor, and shame
- knowing (and admitting!) what you don't know and comfort with uncertainty and ignorance
- personality differences that can affect the risk of conflict (ie, why some relationships are completely conflict-free without any effort or particular skill (despite many points of disagreement), while in others, sharp/severe/intense conflict arises from the most innocuous disagreements or misunderstandings (despite great effort and skill in avoiding/resolving conflict))