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Arguments Aren’t Bad for You, If You Know How to Disagree

Arguments Aren’t Bad for You, If You Know How to Disagree

Conflict is everywhere. On social media and late night television we see never-ending arguments about politics, religion, or generational gaps. What if these disagreements were productive?

Conflict is necessary for creativity and development; however, it has to be constructive. America was founded on combining old ways of thinking and producing something new. The idea isn’t to compromise, but to take the different perspectives and create hybrids. Constructive conflict could even resolve the seemingly elusive healthcare issue that has divided our nation.

There are two stages to harness constructive conflict successfully: rules and conversation.

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Stage 1 is to establish the basic rules for differing parties to communicate. Expectations for the discussion must engender respect and esprit de corps. It is imperative that all parties are willing to work together towards a common purpose:

  • Use respectful language (no shouting or personal attacks)
  • Ensure information is readily available to all parties and verifiably accurate
  • Answer questions honestly
  • Develop a new solution
  • Respect basic human rights
  • Test and evaluate solutions by putting it into practice

Constructive conflict can be an engine for genius

Look closely and you will find constructive conflict where creative genius flourishes. For example, Saieh Hall, the University of Chicago has been the birthplace of a wide array of economic theories that have greatly influenced how the free world of meaningful commerce functions.

The Department of Economics has been home to 28 Nobel Laureates and has created an educational dynasty over the past century.  Famously competitive and contentious, every speech, research finding and published paper is an opportunity for disputation. But that’s what moves the field forward. Imaginative new theories are created and debated. Monetary policies, options, derivatives, and several other aspects of modern finance, for better or worse, are the inventions or improvements of the “Chicago Boys.” Thankfully, these days their ranks include women as well, because talent is prized above all.

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Stage two to harness constructive conflict is an open conversation. The key is to treat the other parties as respected colleagues. Avoid debate since it leaves people in a reactive and judgmental position that will not be useful. Everyone needs to participate and develop new ideas; not compromise.  Each participant should answer the following questions in turn:

  • What results do you want to achieve?
  • What result do you want to avoid?

After listening to everyone’s answers, each participant should do the following:

  • Suggest a potential solution in detail
  • Evaluate the upside and downside of their potential solutions

Focus on potential improvement points to each solution. Everyone should have their solutions critiqued by both themselves and the other participants.  Cluster the similar positive and negative solutions. Looking for common themes and hot spots to work towards a hybrid solution.  The purpose is for ideas to mix together. Think of it like having a baby. Create something that is “ours,” not just “yours” or “mine.”

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Collaborate to create a shared vision that encompasses the desired results everyone wishes to achieve and how to achieve them.  Run experiments and evaluate what works and what doesn’t.  Adjust and repeat as appropriate.  Diversity of thought is an essential characteristic of innovation, whether in pairs or communities, because it produces novel combinations and connections.

Constructive conflict has changed history

The world is moved by the creative power of constructive conflict. Consider how Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony not only had different strengths, but also very different ideas about how to achieve voting rights for women. Anthony was a committed leader and brilliant strategist, but frequently alienated potential supporters with her uncompromising approach. Stanton was a polished speaker, writer, and a natural community builder. With seemingly oppositional skill sets, the two women started the National Women’s Suffrage Association, which eventually led to the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, giving women the vote. Their shared goals and ability to creatively channel their conflicting approaches constructively, made it possible for them to change history.

Look for people who are different, not the same

The people we befriend, listen to, or enlist in our latest venture usually, reinforce our beliefs.  Innovation is a form of useful novelty. It’s the opposite of “normal”.  For new ideas, you must first encounter and engage with people who are “different.” Of course, not all conflict can be made constructive, but with each attempt to create new and imaginative hybrid solutions, we can move forward together.

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Featured photo credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP via apimagesblog.com

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Dr. Jeff DeGraff

Jeff DeGraff, PhD, is a visionary in the field of Innovation and Creativity.

Arguments Aren’t Bad for You, If You Know How to Disagree

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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