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Introduction

Introduction

Disagreement among people in relationships, groups, and organizations comes with the territory. It’s common to hear:

“What I dislike most about disagreement is the endless arguing and having to listen to someone else’s stored-up anger and resentment. Who needs it?”

“We could be doing something a lot more productive than dancing around our differences. It’s a waste of time because people don’t really change their minds anyway.”

“Sure, I could be understanding and listen to why a worker doesn’t want to follow my instructions. But all I’m going to get for my trouble is that others will start questioning what I say and I’ll be seen by my boss as a weak manager. As far as I’m concerned, nice guys finish last.”


Every encounter with someone whose views differ from our own offers the potential for friction, wasted time, bruised feelings, and looking foolish.

Managing interpersonal differences isn’t easy. Signs of mismanagement are everywhere—back-biting rivalry, bitter divorces, bickering co-workers. Mishandling these differences leaves emotional scars, diverts energy from where it’s really needed and undermines morale. No wonder so many people walk away from disagreement. Despite the risk of pain and irritation, the rewards for handling disagreement constructively are gratifying.

Take a few moments now to consider what specific benefits you would gain from sharpening your conflict management skills. Think about situations both at work and in your home life. Write the major benefits below.

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Check your list against the following benefits that others report they’ve experienced after managing disagreement effectively. Their feedback may suggest points you overlooked.

  1. “I cleared up misunderstandings with my boss (son, wife, neighbor, riend, etc.)."

  2. “I let go of old resentments and started building a more cooperative relationship.”

  3. “Creative ideas came out of our meeting that were a lot better than the approach I had been pushing for.”

  4. “Problems surfaced that I didn’t even suspect existed.”

  5. “Teamwork improved because we started to feel more trust in one another—and more mutual respect.”

  6. “I felt more committed to the decision we agreed on.”

When you succeed in managing disagreement constructively, everyone wins. The stage is set for needed change, clearer communication, creative ideas, and more authentic relationships.

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