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18 Jun '13

Agreeing and disagreeing agreeably

Posted by T.J. Addington in conflict, emotional intelligence (EQ), reconciliation
Healthy relationships, healthy leadership and healthy teams are built on a culture of high trust and a culture of high trust requires the ability to engage in honest dialogue about important ministry and missional issues.

Honest dialogue, however, requires the ability to agree and disagree with those we work with without our agreement or disagreement affecting our relationship. In fact, in a healthy organization or team, honest dialogue is always of high value and encouraged because it is in the give and take of ideas, options and alternatives that a team will come to the best solutions.

In a healthy organization, opinions and ideas are seen as neutral, designed to get the team or organization to the best solution.

As neutral, they are not good or bad, they are simply puzzle pieces on the table that may or may not fit the final picture but which need to be considered. Because they are neutral entities, it is not necessary to see disagreement as bad or a challenge to us because we are simply trying to fit the puzzle pieces together in the best configuration. Thus it is not about me or you but about which solution is best for the team and its mission.

Where this breaks down is where a team member so holds their solution or idea as the right one that it is no longer a neutral option but becomes to them to only right option. Someone who must get their own way displays unhealthy emotional intelligence (EQ) and they infuse what should be a neutral option for the group to consider into a more charged issue of what is right (my way) or wrong (the other way). Once this dynamic occurs, trust is damaged for the give and take of options is no longer possible without a fight over right and wrong, rather than over different options.

This often happens on church boards where individuals with strong convictions insist that their way is the right way and what should be an agreeable discussion of options becomes instead a conflictual discussion of options where their is no way to resolve the issue without conflict because someone has drawn hard and fast lines that must either be followed or the conflict will continue.

In these cases, whether on a team or a board, what should be a discussion of neutral ideas and issues designed to get you to the best solution has instead been hijacked by an individual (well meaning or not) who has a personal agenda. Personal agendas hurt group process and decision making because there is no longer the ability to dispassionately discuss ideas and issues. They have now been infused with what is "right" or "wrong."

Those who believe that honest dialogue toward shared solutions means that they can fight for their personal agenda (the way it should be) misunderstand what healthy dialogue looks like. In fact, unless they can grow in their understanding of the give and take of ideas and issues toward a common solution, they do not belong on a team or a board because their agendas will sabotage the process, and damage trust because there is no longer a way to agree and disagree agreeably.

Remember, in a healthy organization, options and ideas are seen as neutral, designed to get the team or organization to the best solution. They are pieces of a puzzle that may or may not end up in the final picture and should be seen as valid options without being infused by personal agendas. Where a team member cannot do that, they don't belong on the team!