This weekend I had the opportunity to listen to friends discuss the topic of public disagreements. To be clear, a disagreement is a calm expression of a difference of opinion or differing viewpoint. “Public” means at least one person other than the two disagreeing is observing. An example is two people disagreeing in a meeting at work attended by five people.
It was interesting to hear the various views on this. People have different comfort levels when it comes to conflict, and that’s reflected in their views on disagreements, especially in a setting with others watching. Those who are less comfortable with conflict are less likely to disagree publicly. They prefer to chat with the other person one on one. Those more comfortable with conflict are more likely to disagree publicly.
I’m a fan of constructive conflict. I’ve been part of and seen the result of getting smart people with different viewpoints together. The process of listening with the intent to understand someone else’s perspective can lead to amazing outcomes. The insights or solutions that result can be great and wouldn’t have been reached absent the conflict and listening to understand.
To be clear, conflict for the sake of conflict isn’t a good thing. It can create a toxic culture. Nor is conflict that doesn’t adhere to the golden rule. But constructive conflict in a public setting where people are (1) trying to understand other perspectives and (2) focused on getting to a solution (not being right) can lead to powerful outcomes.