Getting Two Minds to Conform to Reality

Monday, May 07, 2018

Over at Work: A Guide, Jorge Rodriguez discusses handling disagreements at work in a post titled, "How To Get Your Coworker To Agree With You." I found the piece thought-provoking and generally on the right track, although sometimes imprecisely worded. I think the below passage captures the main point and exemplifies my concerns:

The two of you agree with each other, but do you agree with reality? (Image via Pixabay.)
When I say that you're not responsible for Kara or their icon, I don't mean to imply that you shouldn't express your concerns. You should of course do so for all features that concern you. Present your facts and allow Kara to use them to make what [she] consider[s] the best decision. But if you carry into the conversation hopes or expectations about its result, then you disrespect your coworker. When I pushed the issue so hard that Kara became defensive, I wasn't respecting the boundaries of Kara's responsibilities, even though I thought highly of Kara as a designer. [bold added]
I agree with Rodriguez's main points, which I take to be (1) that one should not be too emotionally invested in getting another person to express agreement with what one says, and (2) that disagreement indicates that at least one party in a disagreement is wrong about something. That said, one should go into every conversation with "hopes and expectations about its result." It's just that those hopes should be focused on learning the truth -- be it by oneself, the other party, or both. In such a goal lies freedom from worry about what one cannot control, namely the output of another mind at a given moment. It will seem paradoxical to many in Rodriguez's audience that with such freedom will come a greater ability to influence others, but it does, because such a way of interacting shows respect for the sovereignty of their minds. More crucially, one will be more receptive to learning for oneself in the first place. I'm not sure if Rodriguez would go so far as to say that, but it is true, as one can see when encountering the "two-way door" part of his discussion.

-- CAV


Dinwar said...

I want to contest the statement that disagreement means someone is wrong about something. It usually does; however, disagreements can arise without either party being wrong. Often this occurs because different people have different (and equally rational) value hierarchies.

While the big-ticket values (reason, justice, etc) don't conflict among rational people, smaller-ticket items often can, and when resources are scarce conflicts can arise. Do you want to spend more money on a house or a yard? Do you want to spend money upgrading the house or going on vacation with your children? Even more basic: Do you do chores such as laundry a little a time so they're never overwhelming, or do you do you wait until you have a large batch so that you deal with them less frequently (once a week or so)? Neither is wrong, but disagreements about this can cause tremendous friction in a relationship.

In industrial settings the better/faster/cheaper trichotomy makes for interesting discussions: typically you can only achieve two of those goals, so which do you chose? It's not inherently wrong to opt for a slower process over a faster one, or a lower-quality, cheaper product over a higher-quality, more expensive one; it depends on what you are using the thing for, and sometimes there is no single correct answer.

Often in these cases you need outside help to figure out what best to do without anyone sacrificing. In an industrial setting, this is what managers or executives get paid to figure out. In a home setting, it can be more complicated. Still working on an optimal strategy for this.

Gus Van Horn said...


I stand corrected. I should have qualified my statement with something like " on matters of fact". I agree that there are many areas, such as personal preferences, where two people can disagree without either of them being wrong about something. Thanks for mentioning that.