Conflict is an inevitable part of the human experience. The term ‘agree to disagree’ is so common that it has become part of the lexicon. You can actually find its definition in Mirriam-Webster. Essentially, it boils down to – we are never going to come to an agreement on this topic so let’s move on. I propose that there may be a much more valuable resolution.
Agreeing to agree. It’s not quite as simple as it sounds, and it doesn’t require one party to ignore their inner core beliefs in deference to someone else. In fact – it is far from simple.
The practice of agreeing to agree starts well before the conflict. It begins with doing the work to develop deep relationships. Investing your most precious resource – your time – in the people around you. This goes well beyond the task list and gets to the work of learning to know each other as fully present and fallible humans. It is inevitable that you won’t see eye to eye on everything – not unlike the experiences you have with your family and loved ones.
You and someone you have spent hours developing a genuine relationship with will at some point experience deeply divided opinions. Call it – relationship dissonance. When that happens, it is easy to become entrenched as each person fights their corner, refusing to budge, convinced of the superiority of their position. Truthfully, that is often our default position – we are hard-wired that way. Temperatures rise, tempers can flare (or simmer) and you have the makings of a typical ‘agree to disagree’ situation just to keep the peace.
But deep relationships invite honest communication. Both people can share their true perspectives without watering them down. Then the agreeing to agree begins. We begin to ask ourselves some important questions. What is it that we really want? What do we agree is our goal? What do our perspectives have in common? What can we agree that we agree on?
The disagreement can be over anything – small to profound. There are countless topics we negotiate on any given day. But a small change of mindset from “winning the argument” to finding a path to “what do we agree on” is key to better outcomes and stronger relationships.
It is vital that we have people in our lives who challenge our opinions. Surrounding yourself with people who are afraid to tell you no or to offer an opposing view is a fast track to mediocrity. Engaging in respectful debate with people who are genuinely invested in your betterment pays dividends beyond just professional and personal success.
Developing deep relationships with honest communication is good for all of us.
I think we can agree on that.