Where Do We Agree?

One part of adaptability is discovering ways we can work together. For me, that’s about discovering and using the places where we agree.

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?

2 thoughts on “Where Do We Agree?

  1. Jack Vinson

    This has a very strong resonance with the idea of the “evaporating cloud” or “conflict cloud” in Theory of Constraints circles. Assuming we can find the goal or objective that we share, then we can look for the differences in the way we are going about achieving that goal. Often (in the way these “clouds” work) people are emphasizing different needs or desires related to that goal. I might emphasize speed while you emphasize quality. In order to get speed, I might want frequent releases. In order to get to quality, you might want to do more testing/check (which have the effect of slowing releases). The what creates the conflict. But do we agree that a successful system has both speed and quality? Can we figure out why we think we can’t get both? What assumptions do we have?

    1. johanna Post author

      Jack, thanks. I love the idea that we assume we can’t get both. I’ve been working to eliminate the word “but” from my vocabulary. Instead, I say “and.” That’s powerful.

      When I say “and” I see more possibilities. I might even see assumptions and mental filters I didn’t realize I had.

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