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Richard Stevens

13 January 2020

What behaviours and environment do you need, to create a space where people feel safe to say it as it is? How do you create a culture where its ok to fail fast and learn?
Why would you want to do this?

It is only in these cultures that people feel truly liberated to say it as it is, with a lack of fear of failure and little concern over to whether what they are saying is the right thing or in line with the expectations of the leader. This is how great ideas are unearthed. Allowing everyone to have a voice and supporting the view that its ok to be different. Encouraging people to be themselves and know their contribution is valued is one step towards creating a cohesive team where trust is the premium

Being able to have a difference of opinion helps with creative tension, which is both a sweet spot and uncomfortable at the same time. If creative tension is where all the magic happens then how do we deal with that feeling of awkwardness when people have different views and opinions?

Create the right environment for healthy debate and discussion.

Photo by Kaleidico on

Learning the art to disagree while still treating each other as human beings is tricky but such an important skill to develop both personally and professionally.

We would argue that while there is a definite need in the business world, supporting people to develop the skills required to hold courageous and difficult conversations, but that these same skills play a much wider role across the society in which we live.

Being able to listen actively, show empathy, seek to understand the other person’s view, be respectful and see other ways of doing things are life skills that are as relevant to our children and our families, as they are to the world of commerce.

Learning, developing and practicing these skills should be part of a life learning plan that when done well support people to live better, happier and more harmonious lives.

How good are you at disagreeing?

Here are eight top tips for how to disagree better? 


  • You don’t have to agree – disagreeing itself isn’t the problem, it’s how we do it.
  • Don’t aim for the middle ground – splitting the difference isn’t the answer when you fundamentally disagree.
  • How you talk is more important than what you talk about – ‘What matters is the dynamic that exists between us,’ says couples counsellor Esther Perel.
  • Speak truthfully – to form meaningful relationships what’s needed is total honesty.
  • Listen intently and aim for empathy – it’s all about ‘a willingness to take in what the other person says,’ says Esther Perel.
  • Dial down the rhetoric and rein in the insults – ‘No one in history has ever been insulted into agreement,’ says Harvard professor Arthur Brooks.
  • Understand the difference between fact and opinion – opinions are perspectives to be tested against the evidence, not just weapons to be wielded against our opponents.
  • Go looking for conflict – Then ‘listen compassionately, give your point of view and express love,’ says Arthur Brooks.