As lawyers, we are expected to be tenacious in our opinions. We are expected to always be on fire and outspoken for the things we believe in. But, what happens when you are outspoken about things that people around you disagree with. How do you go about navigating differences in a respectful manner?
I am not necessarily a peacemaker, and by that I do not mean I intentionally strike up conversation that will cause conflict, but I like playing devil’s advocate and naturally, I often find myself in tense discussions, and I would like to share with you a few things I have learned.
1. Conflict is good:
I think that conflict is great, if it can be interpreted as constructive, mainly because I have trained myself to see disagreement as an opportunity to grow - either to grow my perspective or to grow a connection with someone. You see, conflict is only a recipe for disaster if you allow it to be. By way of example, Mrs A and I disagree on the best coffee. I think the best cup of coffee is black instant coffee, Mrs A thinks its coffee beans from Colombia that are slow roasted to perfection. This scenario has two outcomes:
a) I can think Mrs A is a snob because of her luxurious taste in coffee, and then make the assumption that she thinks I am cheap because I like instant coffee. Immediately I am offended by the whole situation, and I walk away from the discussion with a bitter taste in my mouth (pun intended); or;
b) I could see this difference as an opportunity to grow a connection. I would do this by asking Mrs A why she likes this specific coffee. She could tell me a long elaborate story about how her grandfather comes from Colombia and it reminds her of him, or it could be as simple as she likes the taste. Either way, I have opened up a channel of communication and it has allowed us the opportunity to form a connection.
2. Train yourself to engage in difference. As one of my previous blogs explain, our brains are wired to see the negative in everything. So, we need to train ourselves to view differences as something that should be engaged with and not feared. Once we shift our perspective that difference is a good thing, this will automatically have the effect that disagreements will be less tense.
3. Lastly, there is space for everyone. It has taken me a long time to realize this. But, there is space for you. The minute you assume that because someone disagrees with you, your space is taken up, you have lost. Instead, we should cultivate the perspective that there is space for everyone. I have trained myself to believe that my space cannot be diminished, unless I allow it to be. And the way I most quickly feel my space diminishing is when I slip into the belief that because a person and I disagree there is no longer space for me to hold my belief AND consider and respect theirs.
So yes, we can all be tenacious in our opinions, but in order to avoid non-constructive conflict, maybe next time try and adopt the above.