“Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Just because you have the same goals, doesn’t mean that you will agree with like-minded people about everything. People with shared values are going to disagree from time to time. These conflicts are not often about “deal breaker” issues. They are frequently based on cultural differences.
We have different communication styles. Some groups have different ways that people come to know things, or different attitudes towards disclosure. Not everyone prefers the same decision-making processes. Leaders have to be aware of these differences, and help figure out a way to choose effective strategies even if they differ from their own preferences.
Obviously, we can’t know all things about all cultures. There are no universal intercultural problem-solving methods. There are things, however, that are pretty universal:
- People from all backgrounds want to be listened to and understood.
- In every culture people respond to respect and disrespect.
Getting to a state where this becomes easier requires active listening, honesty and honest sharing. This may mean postponing an action or project until compromises have been negotiated.
Delays can be frustrating, but ultimately, the trust that has developed by taking the time to iron out disagreements now, will pay big dividends in the future.
All of this is easy if you keep a sense of humor. It’s amazing how a little self-deprecating humor can ease tensions when people are anxious over disagreements.