The power of constructive disagreement

From Saving Your Team with Constructive Dissension

Disagreement is a precious resource in learning, judgment and decision-making. Often people avoid openly expressing disagreement in a fear of offending others or as the result of the peer or team pressure. That neglect of disagreement results in the failure to benefit from the constructive forces of disagreement, including:

1. Improved communication:

  • Clarification and greater understanding of ideas
  • Increased retention of relevant information
  • Increased use of critical thinking skills


2. More productive teamwork:

  • Stimulation of interest and involvement
  • Stronger working relationships and cooperation
  • Increased interest and motivation for problem solving
  • Increased understanding of self and others
  • Increased group interaction, trust and cohesiveness
  • Enhanced awareness of problems in group functioning
  • Changes can be made before the group is impaired
  • Decreased tension, frustration
  • Higher levels of morale and satisfaction
  • Decreased likelihood of acting out negative feelings indirectly


3. Better Quality decisions and problem solutions:

  • More creative ideas
  • More decision alternatives
  • More time spent thinking through decisions


Conflict is often the first step for getting rid of outdated procedures, revising regulations, changing organisational culture, fostering innovation and creativity. Addressing rather than suppressing conflict opens the lines of communication, gets people talking to each other (instead of about each other)  and makes people feel like they’re part of a team that cares. As a result, people learn how to work harmoniously, come up with creative solutions and reach outcomes that benefit everyone involved.


However many of us are programmed to avoid conflict or do not know how to handle disagreement in a constructive way. So we have quiet, reserved, polite workplaces, but there is a whole bunch of “stuff” simmering below the surface. We cannot be honest and disagree with each other. We sit around the conference table and nod our heads up and down, and then after the meeting we tell the truth to a smaller group of peers with whom we actually feel comfortable being honest.


Below are some ideas to help your team learn to voice dissenting opinions and resolve disagreements in a constructive way:

  1. Raise awareness: Let members know that disagreement can be healthy and that the team encourages constructive tension. This will help set the stage and encourage more “voices” to come forward.
  2. Value listening: Draft listening as a core value of the team. Ultimately, we cannot learn from dissension if our hearts and minds are not really open to the conversation.
  3. Respect always rules: Constructive dissension boils down to team members offering respect to their colleagues. When this principle is ignored, any level of disagreement can quickly become unhealthy. If you have any sense of being on shaky ground after engaging in an intellectual battle with someone, patch that rift with kind words, support and willingness to listen. You may have to retreat for a while until things cool down, but you must let the other person know that you still respect and admire them.
  4. Encourage dissenting opinions: Teach team members how to disagree diplomatically. Many individuals may want to disagree, yet are not sure how to avoid “causing trouble”. Offer ways to speak up by suggesting healthy “templates” or a “scripts” to do so.
  5. Pose alternatives: If they find fault with an idea or strategy — be sure that team members attempt to offer an improved version or alternative solution. Constructive criticism is always preferred.
  6. Deal with dyad issues: If two members seem to be experiencing personal conflict, ensure this does not play out during team meetings. Encourage a dialogue to resolve core issues outside of the team and contain “toxic spills” rooted in personal issues.
  7. Focus on solutions, not the “win”: Ultimately, one single idea does not have to “win” — and this can help take the pressure out of collaboration. Masters of innovation such as Pixar, combine the ideas of many contributors to formulate solutions. In this way being honest and open, won’t take sway from another team member’s work.


The same rules apply to handling disagreement within the family: never stop caring and listening no matter how angry you are.

Love is caring for each other even when you're angryFrom Pinterest

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30 thoughts on “The power of constructive disagreement

  1. bkpyett says:

    Great text and visuals, well done!

  2. gwennonr says:

    As a habitual people pleaser who has often avoided conflict at any and all costs, I found this very helpful. It was wonderfully well-presented. Very thought-provoking. Thank you so much for sharing it! : )

  3. satzie says:

    This is another wonderful post from you. Thank you for sharing Otrazhenie 🙂

    Loved each and every corner of the post – the picture, the necessity, tips on working with constructive disagreement, and the video as well.

    The post clearly points out why constructive disagreement are required and the video clearly tells what worse would happen when disagreements are altogether avoided.

    The points that’s marked in the post on ‘helping constructive disagreement’, certainly helps to a certain extent. And it also appear to be missing focus on few more important areas.

    These points can help when both/more the person involved are educated about this, when both are aware of its pros, cons and rules. It can help in organization, in few close relationships. But what about when you meet certain people with whom you can’t take time in educating its importance, its rules, how can we handle such situations ?

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Very good point, Satzie. In work environment, those people could benefit from coaching as well as clearly specified discussion/meeting rules. In family environment, some coaching and/or counselling might help. If family members can’t resolve disagreements in a constructive way, then they might need a help of a third person (e.g. counselor).

      • satzie says:

        This is quite a good idea, seeking professional & trained counselors.

        I’m sorry for not phrasing the question properly. To put in better words. Its like meeting a new client in work environment. We might have certain disagreement with them. We might not be able to educate the client in anyways. Educating a new client might not look nice and the client might not like it as well. Its like wanting to handle a situation from one side – how can we handle such situations ?

        People in close/intimate relationship would be willing to spend time and consider educating themselves. However, how about meeting a distant relative, or a new client or a stranger and we happen to want to disagree. How can we do that ?

      • Otrazhenie says:

        Very good questions, Satzie. It is hard however to cover it in a comment. I’ll add it to my list of ideas and one day it might turn into a post 🙂

      • satzie says:

        True Otrazhenie.
        I will be glad to see a post from you, of valuable insights on that topic.
        And also if i come across any good posts on the topic, i will share the links with you for sure.

  4. aelmorgan says:

    This is the first blog I’ve officially chosen to follow. I need ideas to help keep me moving forward on my journey. By this post and reading the titles of others it looks like you’re going to be a good for that reason.

  5. yusufmendez says:

    Reblogged this on A simple man’s thoughts… and commented:
    Great piece. I could not agree more.

  6. I liked this material so much I shared it on my FB page. I love the part where it says that the biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place. How True!

    I wish that those in the US Congress could read and apply this material. Sadly, these days, it seems that constructive communication happens less and less. Part of the reason, I think, is that folks get too invested in winning or losing the argument and forget about resolving the issue.

    For myself, I know I frequently forget that listening is also a major factor in communication. When we are invested in power plays and winning, true communication goes out the window.

  7. nicholas marinelli says:

    excellent post!

  8. […] 1)    Why should we encourage constructive disagreements? And few good ideas on developing constructive di… […]

  9. […] In a post that really speaks for itself, Otrazhenie reflects on “The power of constructive disagreement.” […]

  10. Wow – great conversation piece, I find that others do not want to hear what you have to say comes from always wanting to be right. Truly enjoyed reading this!

  11. Reblogged this on Mastering Today and commented:
    Great Information!

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