Differences should not turn into disputes

August 16, 2019
Differences should not turn into disputes

Differences should not turn into disputes.

I was reading this article (extract below) in The Times of India this week and was struck by the heading, ‘Differences should not turn into disputes’. This statement came from the Indian External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar, during his discussions with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, in Beijing.

How true!

Differences and disputes in Life

I was connecting this statement to the context of Life, in general.

Whether we are at work or with friends or in the family, differences of opinion are natural. After all, human beings are wired differently and therefore, will think differently.

Differences are also desirable

In fact, in some situations, different opinions are desirable. For instance, when a solution to a problem needs to be found, what if everyone came into the meeting to agree with one view? Would the best solution be found?

I have always believed that a team is a bouquet of different flowers and not a bunch of identical pinkish-orange roses. Different flowers make the bouquet richer by their unique appearance, fragrance, shape, and size. This means that a great cohesive team actually celebrates the different views, perspectives and opinions.

When a difference is the same as a dispute – the impact

However, when we view differences as a dispute, it leads to something very different. At one end of the spectrum, it sparks off conflict, even violence. Consequently, it could mean that every time my perspective is different from yours, we end up as adversaries and worse, enemies.

Obedience and deference

At the other end of the spectrum, it encourages obedience and deference. No wonder, in organizations, yes-men abound. In the past, we have observed some political parties where the top leadership position was vacated. It actually led to a leadership vacuum. This is a consequence of having people perennially agreeing to a view out of obedience or deference. Beyond a point, in such cases, even senior ‘leaders’ lose the power to think independently. Obviously, there is no incentive to come up with independent thoughts or ideas.

There cannot be any leadership emanating from perennial obedience or deference.

In my case, as a writer, I know that I will write stuff that will not be aligned to the view of others. So what!  Isn’t that what makes writing or reading interesting – that there is something new or fresh or different? Often, I do get comments from people who do not agree with my view. I thank them for their perspectives. When I started out, I already knew this would happen and I welcomed it. No wonder then that I added a sentence right at the bottom of my webpage which says, ‘It’s all about perspectives!’

Scientific temper

I was speaking with my son on a similar topic a few days ago. My son is a Neuroscientist pursuing his Ph.D. from the University of Sydney. His work also involves research and writing up academic papers. He was mentioning to me that as a scientist, he has to keep his mind open to fresh perspectives even if they appear to be challenging his view. After all, it is all for the sake of Science.

On several occasions, conclusions that he would have arrived at after a great deal of research could be overturned by a colleague in his field. He was mentioning to me that, recently, the conclusion that he had arrived at a couple of years ago was overturned by his own work. He had found evidence to the contrary. Scientific temper is to be open to a new hypothesis that could overturn an existing one. How’s that for differences in your own opinion over time? Fascinating, I thought!

New doors can open

Viewing a difference of opinion as just that could open several doors for us. Teams could brainstorm better, there could be more innovations, discoveries, and inventions. The body of research would improve. Every individual could express his view and stake his claim in this world. People would be more confident about themselves. As a result, Leadership would germinate at all levels.

How about the different conflicts that we go through in life? Wouldn’t our lives be better if we honestly and fully appreciated another, maybe even a contrary point of view? I mention, ‘appreciation’ here. However, agreeing or not agreeing to the view comes later.

As a traveler expands his horizons when he realizes that what is taboo in one land is perfectly acceptable in another, let us view differences of opinion as just differences. Here’s my Quote #213:

You see, differences should not turn into disputes.


Did you know that I conduct Motivational Speaking sessions in organizations using my Quotes? I have named this popular session, ‘Quotivation’ (meaning motivation through Quotes). Interested? Read more about this program here.

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