We Don’t Have to Agree

The positive outcomes of embracing a little conflict.

Diana Lillicrap 7.1.2020

As if we aren’t dealing with enough over the past few months, it turns out disagreements, arguments, and conflict are on the rise in many areas of our lives.

I’ll be honest, it seems like I’m finding myself in more disagreements than usual these days. Maybe it’s the stress of quarantine. Maybe it’s the turmoil in the world. Maybe it’s just because I’m one of those rare people who doesn’t shy away from conflict. Whatever the reason, it’s clear everyone has an opinion (and a right to one, to be sure). Which is why I’ve been trying to remind myself that at the heart of every conflict there are good outcomes that can still be achieved.

According to the Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution, there are two main causes for conflict. First, misperception, which is when you believe something to be true without any proof (let’s call this assumptions we make about things or people). The second reason is misinformation, when wrong information is shared for the purposes of swaying your opinion or trying to create drama around a situation (let’s call this gossip). Assumptions and gossip are everywhere, including in marketing and of course in interpersonal communications. 

But it doesn’t have to be all bad. In fact, a little disagreement can go a long way. It can help us think more broadly, it can guide us to be more inclusive in our solutions, and it can challenge us to come up with more creative ideas.

Value different perspectives

My business partner and I have often said if we both always agreed on everything, one of us wouldn’t be needed. The fact is that in business (and in life) getting another perspective, especially if it’s in stark contrast to your own views, can be very useful. It can also be eye-opening. You can be sure if one person has a certain opinion, many others likely do to.

Especially as marketers, it’s important to meet people where they are and live in the reality of a situation. Making assumptions that everyone already believes what you believe—whether it’s about your brand or the best way to accomplish a goal—is a sure recipe for disaster. Take time to find out what views your customers have about your brand and the world around them and work to understand what shapes those views. If you can recognize and respect the place your customers are today, you will more easily be able to communicate with them about how your brand fits into their world.

Find common ground

Next, you’re going to need to find some common ground. As divided as things may seem, in every situation there are almost always a few things we can find in common with others. Oftentimes it’s the final goal or outcome we are all trying to achieve. We usually just have different ideas about how to get there. Or sometimes it might be the smaller things where we can find commonality, like agreement on some of the steps needed to move toward a goal or the little things we all love about a brand and the people it brings together. If you think broadly, finding things in common with others isn’t actually that hard.

Once you put your finger on what your brand and all of its customers have in common, then you are ready to make connections that bring people together rather than push them apart. And that can be powerful for any brand.

Embrace creative conflict

Lastly, it’s important to recognize that opinions are linked to passion. If someone feels passionate enough to stand up to your ideas and challenge your way of thinking, they certainly have passion around the subject. That’s a good thing. Learning to embrace that creative conflict when working collaboratively will result in better outcomes. If you can respect other’s passions and look for ways to build upon them, you will reach a place you could never get to alone (with just your singular views and non-conflicting perspectives). Your ideas and your approach will be more creative, and likely much better.

So next time you find yourself disagreeing with others, lean into it (respectfully, of course). If we can embrace a little conflict in these chaotic times, we’ll be able to connect more to our customers, find new solutions, and accomplish more creative outcomes together.

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