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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

More by this author

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 April 1, 2019

How to Be Happy: Why Pursuing Happiness Will Make You Unhappy

How to Be Happy: Why Pursuing Happiness Will Make You Unhappy

When we talk about happiness, we often think about staying happy all the time – every single day, every single minute with zero negativity. Many try to pursue this constant state of “happiness” as their ultimate goal, and avoid anything that may take it away from them.

But, what is the meaning of this type of “happiness”?

It’s a lot like your favorite food. The more often you have it isn’t always better. On the contrary, when you only have a chance to eat it sparingly, that’s when you really savor every bite. So is it the food itself that makes you happy, or is it how valuable it is to you when you are eating it?

Always remember that only by experiencing sadness do we understand what it is to be happy.

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Video Summary

Don’t Assume Others Are Always Happy

Most people see those who have seemingly perfect lives and assume they are happy all the time. Since childhood, we are conditioned to chase the idea of “happily-ever-after” that we see in fairytales. On social media, everyone tends to share only the best looking aspects of their lives. So, it’s very easy to have a distorted view of what “happiness” is around us.

In reality, there is always something missing, something lacking, or something unpleasant.

No one has a perfect life. Even the most glamorous celebrities or the richest billionaires have their own set of challenges and problems.

When we feel negative, we’re only focusing on a small fluctuating curve. As CEO of Lifehack, I’ve had to deal with countless problems, and some of them felt like real setbacks at the time. During those moments, it really seemed like these problems would be the life or death of my company and my life goals. But, I got through them; and, weeks, months and eventually years passed with many more ups and downs.

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You need to keep your sights on the extended curve.  Looking back now, a lot of those “really big” problems at the time now seem like only small blips in a long line of experiences. Recalling them in my mind now makes me smile!

Stop Trying to Be Happy–Just Be

It’s natural to want to be happy as often as possible.

So what can we do?

First, throw away the belief that a perfect life means happiness. Personally, I would be miserable if everything was perfect. It’s through experiencing the pains of lifelong challenges that drives us to care for others when they are experiencing similar trials. If life was perfect, you wouldn’t be able to empathize. If life was perfect, you wouldn’t grow.

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To be truly happy, stop chasing permanent happiness.

It sounds like a paradox. But, what I mean is to accept that there will be ups and downs throughout life. Gracefully understand that happiness is a fluctuation of positive and negative events.

Understand the importance of gratitude. Instead of focusing on the unpleasant moment, flash back your memory to when you didn’t have something. I like to think about my career, for example. When I didn’t have a career I was passionate about, I felt lost and demotivated. I felt like everyone was figuring out their lives but me. But, when I found my purpose and started Lifehack, I was deeply happy, even before I realized I would be successful! This memory keeps me going when I hit tough spots. It takes the darkness to make us grateful for the light.

Happiness and Sadness Exist Together

What it all comes down to is this: your life will be filled with beautiful, happy and incredible moments–happy tears and joyous shouts and funny stories. But, your life will also be filled with rain and storms that never seem like they will pass while you’re going through them.

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But, whether your face is warmed by the sunshine, or your heart is dampened by the rain, know that it’s all part of the ebb and flow of life.

Treasure the happy moments and power through the sad ones. Don’t try to avoid “sad” or “negative” experiences, and blindly chase being “happy”. In the end you will achieve a true level of contentment in your life, based on meaningful experiences and achievements. Being able to create growth and meaning out of both positive and negative events — that is the true meaning of “happiness”.

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