Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Pitfalls of Bridging Disagreements

Disagreements happen whenever human beings interact. These disagreements naturally develop due to perception governing reality as opposed to reality governing perception. Sometimes, disagreements are obvious; other times disagreements are hidden to one or all parties. Bridging disagreements is a highly precarious endeavor as all people respond and perceive differently.

We must carefully examine the audience, the histories and the capacities of all involved to develop the most effective, efficient bridging action(s). Even if we consider every aspect of the disagreement and the people involved, the pitfalls in bridging these disagreements are numerous.

Rational Arguments
Using rational thinking to persuade someone of our good intentions and past good acts is a common post-disagreement step for many. However, people in a post-disagreement state of mind commonly are not rational whatsoever. Irrational people are rarely going to be swayed by rational arguments. In fact, a rational argument in this case usually strengthens the feelings of disagreement and can increase the longevity of the situation.

Retreat is sometimes necessary immediately after the disagreement has taken place. However, returning quickly to normal behavior and normal treatment can be crucial to a quick bridge through and out of the disagreement. This is especially true if the other side is in full retreat. Denying your input & action is only going to intensify any retreat by the other side. Restarting the relationship with the familiarity of good intentions and in an open-ended way can remind someone of previous good acts. This can quickly bridge the gap between.
Leaving irrational, inexperienced people to figure this out on their own is like placing the inmates in charge of the asylum. The likelihood of irrational thinking becoming rational acting is like an alchemist turning iron into gold, highly unlikely.

Retaining Mindset of Being Right
Oftentimes, all a person need do to bridge a disagreement is a simple acknowledgement of how our inept action led to real or perceived harm. Regardless of our intention, sometimes the party our actions are directed at cannot accept those actions. In fact, the other person might be reacting to internal fears of being mistaken and not the concern or the good will being shown. In repairing the relationship, we must not get caught up in being right or being seen as correct. If apologizing is all the person requires to let go of their own fear or their own role in the disagreement, how could we not offer that without reservation? The goal is to bridge the disagreement, not to be right.

The outcomes can be potentially disastrous when we let others’ actions dictate our involvement. Certainly, we must remain open throughout this process, as conditions can change quickly. Avoiding these common pitfalls is a constant struggle in navigating the difficult circumstances of disagreement. If we continue forward with the relationship, remaining focused on our good intention and remaining open-ended in that intention, we will persevere. We need only be on both sides to do so.

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