Monday, July 11, 2016

Learning to disagree and remain relationally connected


Being able to disagree with another individual and remain relationally connected is a unique skill that gives one greater influence. Too often, we allow different opinions to separate us from others which limits our influence and creates unnecessary conflict. Unfortunately, when two people disagree and allow their differing opinions to create division, others often line up behind one or the other and the result is a division of many rather than of two. Thus learning to disagree and remain relationally connected is even more critical if we desire to be people of peace.

Fundamental to this skill is the ability to separate our opinions, however strong, from relationships. Ideas and convictions are things that define us as us. They allow us to be self defined people rather than defined by others. Self defined individuals understand who they are, what they think and what their convictions and values are. However, just as they do not allow others to define them, they do not insist that others also agree with them. They know who they are and allow others to be self defined as well. 

For many, agreement on issues is the basis of a relationship. But this is a fragile basis for any friendship or working relationship. First, because there will come a time when there is a major disagreement that will compromise the relationship. Second, because it does not allow both parties to be self defined. Usually it is the dominant individual who will define the relationship with weaker individuals simply agreeing. Third, this kind of relationship fundamentally ignores the healthy boundaries of self definition that allow individuals to be who they are rather than to be what someone else is. Finally, it does not respect the opinions of others but requires them to agree with us. In this respect there is not the humility to allow others their own convictions.

Collegial relationships should be based on mutual respect, common interests or goals and the conviction that we need one another to achieve the best outcomes. It should not be based on the need to agree with one another all the time. If I can separate my convictions from the ability to remain relationally connected I can retain the ability to stay connected, have influence and keep others from taking sides and dividing the group. 

In my own consulting, I make it a high priority to stay connected to those who might disagree with my recommendations. I want to unite others rather than divide them. And I want to remain connected whenever possible.

TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at tjaddington@gmail.com.

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