Page 55

issue no.17

meetings (and elsewhere) can

opinion is valid for them at that

become problematic. Contests of

moment in time. People are more

personality become the norm and

likely to shift their opinion when they

productivity and collaboration suffer.

have not been forced to defend it.

Now consider the use of the word

Therefore, all opinions can be held

‘and’. When this is used by a

lightly and are open to evidence.

second party at the beginning of a

Disagreements are interpersonal.

response to a first-party comment,

By expression or implication,

the psychological response is

disagreement involves the word

totally different. The first party’s

‘you’. Disagreements assert that one

curiosity is triggered rather than

party is wrong. The aggrieved party is

their defensiveness. Active listening

likely to stop listening and to respond

is triggered. The conversation now


begins to move towards a dance of ideas.

In contrast, dissent is personal, not interpersonal. It makes no claim

Here are two simple suggestions

about the veracity of the other

that can enhance the quality of every

person’s opinion. Rather, it merely

meeting, strengthen morale, and

makes transparent the opinion the

nurture innovation and commitment.

speaker currently holds. An example

First, forbid the use of the word

might be: ‘My experience has been

‘but’ in meetings. Whenever the

different to yours’.

word ‘but’ is used, it is beneficial for another person to assertively

The intent of expressing dissent is to

respond by yelling ‘and’. While

be authentic. Because two people

this might seem ridiculous, if it is

differ in their opinions, this does

intended to improve the quality

not make either of them wrong. It

of meetings, then all participants

is perfectly possible for two people

can benefit by having undesirable

to hold contrasting opinions on

behaviours gently drawn to their

the same topic and for both of

attention. A dollar into a bowl in the

them to be correct. Dissent is

middle of the meeting table for each

acknowledgement of difference.

transgression is a great way to fund

This can trigger curiosity and in

the corporate Christmas party as

turn lead to a dance of ideas rather

well as build a positive, collaborative

than a contest of personalities.


Energy previously expended on

The second suggestion, related to

defensiveness can now be redirected

the first, is to forbid disagreement

towards exploration, mutual respect,

of any type. This suggestion might

active listening and the spawning

also seem ridiculous and so warrants

of new ideas. Meetings become


far more productive. By changing the nature of the conversation, the

People have opinions. Any person’s

culture itself changes.


About the author Ian Plowman, PhD Ian is a consultant, facilitator and social researcher with over 30 years’ experience as an organisational psychologist. He works with individuals, organisations, industries, communities and government agencies. He holds a Doctorate in Management (researching blockages to innovation), an Advanced Master’s Degree in Business Administration, a Master’s Degree in Organisational Psychology and an Honours Degree in Clinical Psychology. Ian helps clients to develop skills and awareness to remove organisational blockages and raise levels of engagement, creativity and innovation. He can be contacted via: Web: www.cooperativeconversations., or LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin. com/in/ian-plowman-meetings

Profile for Spark Magazine

Spark Magazine - Mid Year 2019  

Spark Magazine The Fuel for Business

Spark Magazine - Mid Year 2019  

Spark Magazine The Fuel for Business

Profile for bsicomms