What can a dog park teach us about bridging great societal divides? Brilliant talk. I cannot think of a more appropriate time in our lives to hear this message. There is a difference between US AND THEM and US VS THEM. We all can go beyond our own identities and ‘packs’ to find common ground with those we may disagree with on personal, work-related, social and political grounds. We are all humans after all – this human identity is common to us all…
“Marriage is ugly, you see the absolute worst in someone. You see them when they’re mad, sad, being stubborn, when they’re so unlovable they make you scream. But you also get to see them when they are laughing so hard that tears run down their face, and they can’t help but let out those weird gurgling noises. You see them at 3am when the world is asleep except you two, and you’re eating in the middle of the kitchen floor. You get to see the side of them that no one else does, and it’s not always pretty. Its snorting while laughing, its the tears when it feels like its all crashing down, its the farting, its the bedhead and bad breath, its the random dances, its the anger and the joy. Marriage isn’t a beautiful thing, but it is amazing. It’s knowing that someone loves you so much, and won’t leave you even though you said something nasty. It’s having someone have your back no matter what. Its fights over stupid things, like someone not doing the dishes or picking up after themselves. And it’s those nights you fall asleep in each others arms, feeling like there will never be enough time with them. It’s cleaning up their throw up, or just rubbing their back when they’re sick. It’s the dirtiest, hardest, most rewarding job there is. Because at the end of the day you get to crawl into bed with your best friend, the weirdest, most annoying, loving, goofy, perfect person that you know. Marriage is not beautiful, but it’s one heaven of a ride.”
All marriages have ups and downs. Relationship journey is not a straight line yet one that zigs and zags and has numerous curves. Sometimes it feels like it goes backwards and forwards all the time. You might be:
- Feeling very close and intimate sometimes – then distant and disconnected other times
- Communicating in ways that you feel heard, accepted and supported sometimes and other times communicating in a blaming and harsh manner where you feel unheard, rejected and disrespected
- Resolving differences and conflicts effectively sometimes while other times your efforts seem to make matters worse resulting in ongoing disagreements and conflict
- Having satisfying, passionate and intimate sex sometimes while other times it feels rote, mundane and boring
- Sharing joy, laughter and fun while other times you are pushing each other’s buttons
- Experiencing times of calm and ease with one another which may be suddenly interrupted by an intense explosive fight leaving you confused and shocked and wondering “where’d that come from”
- Gazing at your partner and having the conviction that you are with your soul mate and other times wondering “who is this person and how did I end up with him/her”
- Agreeing on lifestyle and financial needs and wants compared to strongly disagreeing about these things.
- Wanting to spend as much time with your partner as possible and other times wanting to be alone or with friends, or maybe even wanting to be as far away from you partner as possible.
Perhaps you can think about these ups and downs and curves in the following way. Sometimes when you go on a trip you get directly to your destination with ease in a timely manner. The trip and the roads you take are as smooth as can be. Other times you go on a trip and you have to negotiate bumpy roads filled with potholes and/or inclement weather and/or you are re-routed due to construction and/or you get stuck in long tedious traffic delays… Travel, and life, is inconsistent and uncertain. Relationships are surely like this too.
How to Manage Ups and Downs in Your Relationship?
- Understand that ups and downs and fluctuations are normal and know that they are surely going to happen
- Be patient, kind and compassionate with yourself and your partner as you navigate the changes and curves
- Look back to where you were and where you are now in terms of growth
- Address concerns and issues as they arise to thwart building resentments
- Communicate regularly with openness and honesty
- Seek input and advice from friends or an experienced professional to help you see things objectively
- Take responsibility for your part in the strengths and weaknesses of the relationship
- Allow yourself to feel your feelings—your grief, relief, sadness, joy, sorrow, loneliness and anger
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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- Saving Your Team with Constructive Dissension
- Learn to disagree and argue constructively
- Benefits of open disagreement