You are in an interview. The interviewer across the table asks you: ‘What do you do if you disagree with someone on your team? How do you resolve this situation?’. You pause and take 10 seconds to think about it.
The tricky part is that there’s probably no right answer. It depends, right? What does it depend on though?
For me, there’s one core factor: impact of the decision. Sometimes we like to argue for things that are pretty minor and are most probably easy to correct if they go wrong.
Say, you are arguing for solution A and Kathy is convinced we should go for solution B. You have experience with these things, so you are solid that solution A is the right thing to do. But somehow your wisdom and compelling arguments aren’t reaching Kathy. Stop and assess the impact of going for solution B and imagine what would it take to correct the course. You might find out that this correction is pretty minuscule or at least fairly harmless. Go for solution B! Two reasons:
- You want them to taste the soup. They need to try and come to their own conclusions on this topic. The learnings from this will have a stronger effect and will be backed up by real experience.
- Who knows, maybe you’ll learn something new. It’s useful to introduce a bit of entropy in our lives. Once we are settled in our ways and we “truly see” the world for what it is, we loose any capacity to be flexible and learn.
What if the impact is massive? Everybody in the room agrees we want to land on the best available solution.
Step away from this and ask yourself why do all of us disagree? Assuming I find myself in a group of well-meaning smart people, I can’t help but wonder what am I missing that I find it hard to accept a different opinion. This is quite profound to think about for me, because it shifts the focus from this isolated case centred around this fixed topic to a wider perspective that sheds light on our core concepts, values, rules and ideas that each one of us settled for. I want to make sure the foundation is same for everyone. I want to know now if I missed something important so that I don’t continue diverging to wrong conclusions. These disagreements can uncover gaps in our shared understanding of the problem. Find this problem and fix it.
All in all, these pesky disagreements are useful as they teach us to work with others and help us uncover interpretations.