Some disagreements are actually tentative agreements in disguise. What am I talking about? To explain where I am coming from, here is a true story (which is still playing itself out) that got me thinking about the nature of disagreements.
At work I’ve been witness to a very characteristic (even epic) disagreement between the two senior managers about the strategy for our new product line. Actually the core of the agreement is about whether the product line should exist in the first place.
The disagreement has otherwise been very polite and respectful, with the sides presenting their points that of view to each other and to the powers that be. A typical mild-mannered corporate affair. Business as usual.
I’ve mostly stayed on the sidelines but yesterday I came out of left field (to continue with sports metaphors) with a freakishly long email that offered my take, complete with opinion and facts, on the matter at hand.
Here is the rub. One warring party swiftly declared that they agree with me a 100%. The other followed suit shortly thereafter declaring that they agree with me 80%-90%. It was all in good humor and only half-serious, but it got me thinking.
The only way to these percentages to make sense is for my summary to only address the minor points in the argument (around which there is no disagreement), but ignore the main points of the argument (which would be the core points of contention). This degenerate case would look something like this.
But I don’t believe that I’ve written an email that would fit the green circle. I suspect the real explanation is that the difference between the parties are more personal than mathematical, and I wish I knew how to draw a Venn diagram around that.
On a more serious note, I think it often takes a third-party perspective to highlight how close the two positions in an argument really are. It also helps to have an intermediary. Another person saying exactly the same thing has a totally different affect on those least expecting to hear it from someone besides their opponent. It gets everyone paying attention again.
And that is exactly what happened!