Usually when two people think alike, it’s because one of them is not thinking.  Let me submit that agreeing with anyone for a prolonged length of time won’t make the world a better place. Rather, disagreement is powerful and it is how we make the world better.

Need some evidence? Our legal system is based on arguments about the law which is far from black and white. In fact, these shades of gray are the basis of any legal argument. Like the law, few things in life are actually defined with black and white specificity.  Rather, we must make choices.

Choices can be hard to make and that is because the potential outcomes are not always clear. This is why many people avoid making choices and some may let things happen as they may. It is easier that way. Not better.

Business people must make quick decisions. Unlike the lawyer, executives and business owners often have little time to deliberate. It can be a lonely feeling and fear can dominate your thought process to the point of being disabling.  Obviously, we want to do the right thing. If time allows, seeking the advice of a close friend or colleague is a common course of action.

Here lies the challenge. Too often we seek advice from friends and family with the intent of getting our ideas validated or approved; it is no accident that these people think like we do. This validation makes us feel better and enables us to go forward, but this tacit approval may be the wrong advice.

Enter the power of disagreement. Instead, seek out a trusted adviser who thinks differently than you do. You will recognize this person (also known as a contrarian) by his or her behavior. They vote differently than you do, like foods that you don’t, and don’t watch the same movies as you. It can be very uncomfortable to be around them.

The “certified” contrarian will likely view a situation or decision from a different angle. That other perspective is where the power of disagreement resides — the other party may see things that you do not. You may have blind spots or biases that could propel you to make the wrong choice. Listen to the argument from someone who does not think like you do. They may help you make a more informed decision.

Disagreement is good.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2011
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  1. Another great post John 🙂 Great advice and so very true.

    It’s not easy to do, but so valuable to open yourself to a contrarian as an advisor. You shouldn’t ever be afraid of a challenge. If you can defend your decision to your contrarian, then you’ve probably got the right choice. Not always, but it’s your role as a leader to make the ultimate call. You have to take the feedback for what it’s worth and decide.

  2. Greeting criticism from others with an open and receptive mind is hard for many of us. I guess the key is too actively listen to the other point of view and stay in the moment. Typically, when a person hears an opposing view, he or she reacts by racing ahead of the conversation to construct a clever reply or defense. A better approach is to listen intently and ponder the other alternative. It may make sense ask for even more feedback. What a generous gift it is to get criticism from others — be sure to say thanks.

  3. Sylvan Swartz

    I disagree. The key is not to find a consultant with whom you completely disagree and may well not like but to find an experienced person to consult with that is not afraid to give their honest, well informed opinion. They will give their opinion even if it differs from yours. Contrarians do not necessarily have the answers any more than anyone else. They are just contrary.
    The important factor is that the person doing the asking must keep an open mind and accept well supported arguments that may differ from their own.

  4. Per the source of all knowledge (Wikipedia) — “A contrarian is a person with a preference for taking a position opposed to that of the majority. Contrarian styles of argument and disagreement have historically been associated with radicalism and dissent.”

    Sylvan, I hear your point. My choice of the word contrarian may be in incorrect. Yet, my message is much the same: listen to others who disagree with you since they may be able to help you. Or, as you said, “keep an open mind and accept well supported arguments that may differ from their own.”

  5. Ash

    Usually when two people think alike, it’s because one of them is not thinking.

    I mean WOW. Could it have been any more profound? And yet we see so much agreement in opinion as people think things through as a group.

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