64 Please disagree 7 Aug 2020

Today’s title is a special request. The article explains how to carry it out. The jovial expression in the staged photo communicates something other than despair. That lighthearted view of disagreement is quite different from serious conflict.

High-energy union in competition

A sportsmanlike contest is cooperation. The 1949 movie Adam’s Rib stars Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn as a married couple whose love includes fighting fiercely in the courtroom or on the political stage. Athletes compete vigorously while understanding that their performance will bring out the best in the other party. The benefits are understood by and accrue to both sides.

Low-energy difference sharing

There exists cooperative disagreement, illustrated by the nursery rhyme about the preferences in the married couple in which one ate the fat and the other ate the lean. There is no energetic opposition taking place; the non-competitive difference results in mutually beneficial sharing.

No-energy neutral difference

There is another kind of low-energy disagreement in which parties have no purpose to compete against each other. One spouse may find a particular work of art to be offensively grotesque while the other spouse may find its novelty to be challenging. The difference is serious but there is no need to resolve a dispute. The common ground is not competition but is rather the willingness to be different.

Low-energy contest

The next level of difference involves a desire to prevail. In the first instance above, the parties know they are helping each other grow stronger. The difference is impersonal. This instance looks like gentleness and civility, but parties wish that the other side would fold and melt away. Instead of being an agreed exercise, the intentional difference becomes a power contest.

High-energy opposition

Injurious difference is a mean spirited disagreement based on a contrary will devoid of collaboration. It is never an appropriate fulfillment of today’s opening request to disagree.


The five steps are a progression in which energy goes down in the middle and up on the ends while the sense of cooperation descends throughout the list. Benefits go down as each step involves less agreement than the step above it.

 Here are examples that distinguish agreement from disagreement. They reach the important question: why should you disagree? It ends on a strong metaphor.

So why disagree?

Why would today’s title invite disagreement? The chart above refines what we mean by disagreeing. All of the options describe noncombative attitudes. In a healthy relationship, parties are not threatened by circumstances like these. If such differences cannot be endured, we know that someone needs bolstering. In contrast, I am showing my confidence if I do not need your agreement to hold an opinion.

Pursuing this mental health is most worthwhile. Articles 39-42 outlined steps for dealing with differences. Article 57 urged tolerance so that differences do not become stumbling blocks. Today we expand Article 46 in explaining why difference is essential to meaning.

If you disagree with me, the first suggestion is that you know something I do not know. Listening helps me learn.

If each of us sees a question differently, we both acquire more options. Indeed, each of us brings a unique set of experiences to the table, and additional viewpoints raise additional possibilities. We become unstuck from our familiar ruts.

We have previously dismissed motivations of control and dominance. We have developed the pluralism that thrives on variety and provides diverse inputs. We value every new idea.

Welcoming difference is not welcoming naysayers. We understand that difference is not beneficial when it is obstructive. Instead of building roadblocks across travel lanes, we are consciously welcoming differences that increase the number of lanes.

Photo: Pixabay

Audio file

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Yes, today’s article does invite people to disagree. The article moves from the “what” to the “why”.

Breaking down disagreement into five steps, the energy commitment goes down and up again. The middle level is the benign or neutral disagreement. Going down the five-step list, each level marks less sense of cooperation and therefore less benefit.

There is a chart of noncombative disagreement types, followed by a reasoned list of benefits found in disagreement and summarized in a neat metaphor.

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