Disagreeing Gracefully

Disagreeing Gracefully

Matt Church

Matt Church

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Published by Matt Church – Founder on 17 August 2022

As thought leaders running commercially successful practices, we are often in the business of sharing points of view. When we do this people can disagree with our shared insight.

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Sometimes these people are trolls and critics and are being intentionally disagreeable as it gives them joy. The minute you realise that the other is not acting in good faith and is simply being fractious, you can choose to disconnect. You don’t owe anyone a response, let alone someone who is in the business of leveraging outrage for likes. Don’t feed the trolls.  Eckhart Tolle speaks to this in this video. I love the distinction he makes about knowing versus believing and when you know something to be true you have space for others’ differences of opinion.

Sometimes though, the difference of opinion is constructive and has a positive debate-like quality. It’s in moments like this where the artful thought leader holds a space for the other’s point of view. Masterful thought leaders find a way to be bigger than the conversation that is occurring. They find a place of grace in the debate.

Stephen Fry, an author, actor, thought leader, and comedian, famously said “One goes to Oxford not to get a degree but rather to develop the Oxford Manner; which is namely the ability to disagree gracefully.” The idea that we can hold different points of view and that we don’t all have to align on everything seems common sense when laid out in a flat manner. The current climate of outrage and memetic warfare in the social media and legacy media space suggests we might need to be more agile around disagreement than common sense suggests.

Obama once said, “We don’t have to be disagreeable when we disagree.” And I think that speaks to this idea of grace in our differences.

Professor Linda Hill wrote a great book titled Collective Genius where she unpacks three behaviours high-performing teams share.

  1.  They work with a marketplace of ideas. Something we all can do with generative brainstorming.
  2. They share progress iteratively: It’s OK to share unfinished work as the psychological safety to do so is high.
  3. They work with a sense of creative abrasion: Feedback is welcome, ideas are discussed and points of view are debated.

This ability to share points of view is what makes you a thought leader. The ability to do so with grace is what makes you an impactful one.


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