Practical tips for thoughtful disagreement

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I’ve often said that thoughtful disagreement is one of the most underrated skills. We know we should do it, but we don’t know how, and worse, we’re heavily wired against it through ego and confirmation bias.

I listened to this great conversation between Ray Dalio and Reid Hoffman, which contained a ton of useful tips and set out an ambitious vision for how this works at Bridgewater. I still think that real thoughtful disagreement is beyond most organisations (too hard, too much change required, and too many leaders don’t really want it enough). But here are some ideas if you are going to try:

Trust has to come first, before disagreement can work (95% of scenarios will fail at this hurdle imo)

When disagreement starts, go up a level and agree protocol for resolving & moving forward

Relish the disagreement

Seek mediators, facilitators

Be curious to other arguments and viewpoint “help me understand why I’m not seeing what you’re seeing”

Check what principles you can get agreement on.

Practice meditation to control your ego and see things with more equanimity

Test confidence levels (how sure are you?)

Impose a 2 minute rule on speaking

Try and get beyond your ego to a more balanced mindset

Test facts – if X were true, would you change your mind?

Excellent & entertaining listen here on this topic with a bonus “real” disagreement between Ray and Reid at the end

co-incidentally at the same time Freakonomics put out a great episode on how to change your mind. Changing minds is hard, very hard (and perhaps impossible in many cases). People have selective memories, suppress information, and jump to conclusion first (becoming overconfident in the view) then search for confirming info. Experts have a big investment in seeing the world a certain way – which gives a big cost to changing mind.

How to change minds?

Get people to step out from themselves, view things from an objective perspective. Ask them to assume your point of view and explain why it might be right.

Ask people to explain how something works, in detail (eg toilet). Brings out the illusion of explanatory depth, causes people to questions certainty in other areas.

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