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Disagreement is an essential component of a healthy relationship, a healthy workplace, and a healthy democracy. Much research documents the dangers of surrounding ourselves with so-called “yes men” who always concur. Workplace echo chambers stifle innovation and reify bad policy decisions. Disagreement stimulates creative thinking and prompts innovation.
Yet, there is indeed a peaceful, even collaborative, way to disagree. And, I contend, that it never involves personal insults, ad hominem attacks, and strings of epithets and curse words.
Unfortunately, it seems as though few in the U.S are taught how to disagree peacefully and constructively. Instead, if we read, hear or see something that bothers us, we tend to get all pissy about it and, rather than present our case, resort to the lowest blows we can. This behavior is, of course, modeled at nearly every turn.
My recent experience authoring op-eds illustrates the issue perfectly. I authored a piece about the bureaucratic stifling of activism. In the op-ed, I encouraged folks who disagree with my positions to share their viewpoints, as dialogue and disagreement can lead to amazingly creative social change from the synthesis of the best parts of different arguments. While I did receive some pleasant feedback, I also received one very disturbing piece of hate email.
Not only did this anonymous emailer attack me personally, using hateful slurs, but s/he also failed to see the point I was making , which was precisely that we should not all agree but should not stifle those who do not see things our way.
How do you keep your cool, keep an open mind, and deal with immaturity??
ATS needs to be reminded of this often.