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Last Updated on February 25, 2018

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 January 6, 2019

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

No one wants to suffer. As a general rule, people like to avoid hurt and pain as much as possible. As a species, humans want a painless existence so much that scientists make a living trying to create it.

People can now choose “pain-free” labor for babies, and remedies to cure back pain, headaches, body-pains and even mental pains are a dime a dozen. Beyond medicine, we also work hard to experience little pain even when it comes to loss; often times we believe a breakup won’t hurt as much if we are the ones to call it off.

But would a world without pain truly be painless? It’s unlikely. In fact, it would probably be painful exactly for that reason.

If people never experienced hurt, they wouldn’t know what it was. On the surface level, that seems like a blessing, but think for a moment: if we didn’t know pain, how would we know peace? If you don’t know you’ve hurt or been hurt, how would you know that you need to heal? Imagine someone only knowing they have an incurable cancer at the final stage because no obvious symptoms have appeared at early stages.

Without the feeling of pain, people won’t be aware of dangerous situations—what should or shouldn’t do for survival.

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Pain Is Our Guardian

Pain serves to protect human beings from harmful actions. It’s the same reason parents teach babies that fire equals hot, and that hot equals hurt. Should the baby still place its hand in a fire or on a stove, the intense pain remains so memorable, that the child is certain never to repeat that action.

In the same way, pain within human bodies can serve as a warning that something is not right. Because you know what it is to feel “well,” you know what it is to feel poorly.[1]

Along with serving as a teacher of what not to do, pain also teaches you what you are made of in terms of what you can handle as an individual.

While the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a tired term, it’s used excessively for a reason: it’s true. Pain helps you learn to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties and sadnesses— to develop the grit it takes to push past hardships and carry on.

Whether it’s a shattering pain, like the loss of a loved one or a debilitating accident, pain affects everyone differently. But it still affects everyone. Take a breakup as an example, anyone who has experienced it knows it can hurt to the point of feeling physical. Especially the first breakup. At a young age, it feels like the loss of the only love you’ll ever know. As you grow and learn, you realize you’re more resilient with every ended relationship.

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No Pain, No Happiness

You only know happiness when you have known pain. While the idea of constant happiness sounds nice, there is little chance it would be. Without the comparison to happiness, there’s no reason to be grateful for it. That is to say, without ever knowing sadness or pain, you would have no reason to be grateful for happiness.

In reality, there is always something missing, or something unpleasant, but it is only through those realizations that you know to be grateful when you feel you have it all. Read more about why happiness and pain have to exist together: Chasing Happiness Won’t Make You Happy

In a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, researchers found one of the things that brings about the most happiness is challenge. When people are tested, they experience a greater sense of accomplishment and happiness when they are successful. It is largely for this reason that low-income individuals can often feel happier than those who have a sense of wealth.[2]

This is a great thing to remember the next time you feel you would be happier if you just had a little more cash.

Avoiding Pain Leads to More Suffering

Pain is inevitable, embrace it positively. Anyone who strives to have a painless life is striving for perfectionism; and perfectionism guarantees sadness because nothing will ever be perfect.

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This isn’t a bleak outlook, but rather a truthful one. The messy moments in life tend to create the best memories and gratitude. Pain often serves as a reminder of lessons learned, much like physical scars on the body.

Pain will always be painful, but it’s the hurt feelings that help wiser decisions be made.

Allow Room for the Inevitable

Learning how to tolerate pain, especially the emotional kind, is a valuable lesson.

Accepting and feeling pain makes you human. There is no weakness in that. Weakness only comes when you try to blame your own pain on someone else, expecting the blame to alleviate your hurting. There’s a saying,

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”

Think back to the last time you were really angry with someone. Maybe you were hurt because you got laid off from a job. You felt angry and that anger caused so much pain that you could feel it in a physical way. Being angry and blaming your ex boss for that pain didn’t affect him or her in any way; you’re the only one who lost sleep over it.

The healthier thing to do in a situation like that is acknowledge your pain and the anger along with it. Accept it and explore it in an introspective way. How can you learn and grow? What is at the root of that pain? Are you truly hurting and angry about being laid off, or is the pain more a correlation to you feeling like you failed?

While uncomfortable, exploring your pain is a way to raise your self-awareness. By understanding more about yourself, you know how to deal with similar situations in the future. You can never expect to be numb to difficult situations, but you will learn to better prepare financially for the loss of a job and be grateful for an income since you now know nothing is promised (no matter how much you work or how deserving you may feel).

Pain Hurts, but Numbness Would Be Worse

Pain does not feel good, but the bad feeling of it will help you learn and grow. It makes the sweet moments in life even sweeter and the gratitude more sincere.

To have a happier and more successful life, you don’t learn from success or accomplishment, but through pain and failures. For it is in those moments that you learn how to do better in the future or at least cope a little more easily.

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You are the strong person you are today because of the hardships this life has presented to you. While you may have felt out of control when those hard times came, the one thing you will always have control over is how you choose to react to things. The next time you hurt or you’re angry or sad, acknowledge it and allow yourself to ruminate in it. Then take a deep breath and start learning from that pain. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1]University of Calgary: Why is Pain Important?
[2]Greater Good Magazine: The Importance of Pain

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