The PaulEkmanGroup came out with an article on disagreements over the holidays with family. Paul Ekman is world renowned for his discovery of microexpressions and his mapping of the face, which has led to his team training secret service and FBI on reading faces to assess threat. The show, Lie to Me, is based on Ekman's work. In other words, the following article has serious credentials and is worth your consideration.
What We Care About
such a disagreement becomes apparent it may not be obvious whether we
are both wrong or both right (if each of us is attending to a different
facet of the same phenomenon), or one of us is right and the other
wrong. Time will tell, but when it does, what should we do about it?
Nothing is to be gained (and a lot can be lost) by trying to force the
one who was wrong to acknowledge a mistaken judgment. That won’t bring
the two of you closer. Our goal when we disagree should be to act now in
a way that will not interfere with collaboration in the future on what
we can reach agreement about.
disagreement acknowledges the benefits for each of us to advocate what
we believe to be right even if it turns out we were wrong. We usually
learn less from those who agree with us than from those who disagree.
Exploring our disagreement won’t get anywhere if it is regarded as a
zero-sum game. But, if it is pursued without rancor, disagreement can be
enlightening to both parties.
The Nature of Emotion
nature of emotion, as I understand it, makes that difficult. A number
of our emotions are aroused when we are pursuing a goal. If the goal is
important but is blocked, we're likely to become frustrated. Frustration
is the breeding ground for anger, directed at whatever or whoever is
seen as blocking us. We won’t be able to resolve a disagreement or
remove the block to our pursuit of a goal if we act out of frustration,
angry at the person blocking us.
What are we to do? The
old adage of counting to ten has its use. We need to calm down and
refrain from taking action motivated by the anger arising from our
frustration. We need to focus on the actions that are blocking us, not
on the actor. Sometimes this means recognizing the need to postpone
pursuing the disagreement until the emotion it has evoked has calmed
down. Impatience for quick resolution usually should be resisted, not
indulged. Instead, we should attempt to learn from the disagreement.
If neither person clings to a position,
much can be learned. Remember the other person is just as convinced as
you are that he or she is right and you are wrong. Try seeing the
situation as the other person sees it. Think of it as role-playing in
which you take the other person’s perspective and arguments,
articulating them as if they are your own. Could you switch sides, as
debaters do? If you do, you will each learn from the experience, knowing
better what you disagree about, and perhaps softening the force of the
Give it a try.
Paul Ekman is a well-known psychologist and co-discoverer of micro expressions.
He was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by
TIME magazine in 2009. He has worked with many government agencies,
domestic and abroad. Dr. Ekman has compiled over 50 years of his
research to create comprehensive training tools to read the hidden emotions of those around you.