In the US right now, we have a divisive political climate. I suspect that many of us agree on the principles even as we disagree on the specifics. For example, we might agree that the more people who graduate from high school and then obtain a higher degree the more society benefits. We might disagree on how to accomplish that.
In our workplaces, we often agree on the principle: ship this product! We don’t agree on how to create a culture that helps us do that.
Personally, we don’t agree on the right diet to eat. I use a low carb/keto diet, and other people I respect much prefer the standard American diet. We both agree we want to eat to become/stay healthy.
We disagree on our practices. We can find agreement for our principles. That agreement allows us to find mutually agreeable solutions to our problems.
When I think about discovering where we agree, I often use this approach:
- Move from what we do to why we do it. From practices to principles.
- Move up the whys as high as I need to, to find a place we agree. Sometimes, the first principle is not where we discover agreement.
You might recognize this as the Five Whys approach to problem discover or root cause analysis.
I often discover agreement. Sometimes, I don’t.
When people (including me!) remain stuck on positions, and use words such as “everyone,” “always/never,” and “must,” I might assume they have significant rules that we can’t easily transform. I need to move to context.
Can I help the other person see that my context is different, and is still valid?
I often assume the other person shares my context. With disagreement, I often discover we don’t.
When we explore each other’s context, we might discover the principles where we agree.
Some decisions we have already defined the context. In urban and suburban areas in the US, we agree on the need for community services: police, trash pickup, fire departments, schools. No one gets to opt out of paying for these services, regardless of our context. As a society, we agree these things are important, and we fund them. We agree to this context when we live here.
The trick is sharing that context: across the rest of the country for politics; in projects; and for us as humans. That’s why I continue to circle back to where we might agree.
We don’t have to agree on everything for political, professional, or personal success. We need to agree enough. And, we need to learn how to disagree with respect and civility. For me, that means discovering the principles where we agree.
I thought of this topic this week because it’s voting season in the US as I write this. Regardless of your positions, please do vote. That’s the principle where you and I might agree, regardless of our positions on the issues.
That is the question this week: Where do we agree?