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Excerpt from Chapter 9 Pick a Fight! - How to Get the Most Out of Clashing Opinions
Pick a Fight! - How to Get the Most Out of Clashing Opinions

When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion.

Dale Carnegie

Disagreements add an extra level of emotions to what is sometimes an already emotionally charged and complex situation.

When your team doubts your reasoning, for example, it is tough not to be affected by the doubts. You start doubting your decision yourself. Reaching clarity becomes more difficult, especially if you are not an autocratic manager, but rather one who requires unanimous agreement from your team before proceeding with a strategic move. Proceeding with a decision despite a disagreement requires an extra level of self-confidence and belief in your vision. This is why, as a norm, managers try to avoid disagreements2. Disagreements have the potential to be confrontational or emotional and, even worse, to change a working team into a dysfunctional one.

However, effective leaders encourage disagreement. They know that the truth is born in the clash of divergent opinions. Concerns are raised and creative solutions are developed. In fact, effective leaders create contention on purpose. Franklin Roosevelt was known to ask subordinates who he knew had different perspectives on an issue to work on it "in strictest confidence." He knew perfectly well that such secret assignments would immediately become known to other people, thus creating a contentious environment.

Key Point
Disagreements can be used as a tool to get to clarity faster.

This chapter discusses several best practices that will help you create and handle disagreements as well as emotions associated with them in order to get to clarity of your decision faster.

If the decision you selected in Chapter 1, "The Key to Mastering Decisions," does not have a disagreement involved, choose another current or past decision that has this dynamic. Write it down in your notebook.

As you go through the chapter, apply the best practices to the chosen situation. Write down your observations. How do you usually handle disagreements? What can you do differently next time you encounter a disagreement?

Constructive Use of Disagreements

No one is thinking if everyone is thinking alike.

George S. Patton

Disagreements create emotionally challenging situations, but they can be constructive if handled properly.

Let me quote one CEO: "I find that, when people disagree, they do not take the time to formulate specifics of the disagreement. With time, the disagreeing parties stop communicating effectively, and layers of emotional resentment are added on top of the initial disagreement. But, in fact, if they were to focus on the root causes constructively and define them clearly to their mutual satisfaction, this step alone would have shifted the parties into the mode of looking for a solution."

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