Have you ever experienced presenting an idea to a group of people in a meeting and one of the participants jumps in with “I disagree”? Or let’s turn the table around, you are sitting in a meeting, and someone is presenting an idea, and you get a sudden urge to say, “I disagree”. Have you ever considered the potential impact of this little phrase on the presenter, on the idea, and on the energy of the team?  Let’s dissect this little phrase and explore its potential impact:

It is not about you

Sorry to break the news, but it really is not about you. The “I” part of “I disagree” is a gentle exertion of ego into the equation and is an attempt to draw attention to your presence, your smarts, your voice, and your authority. But this “I” redirects the energy from the “we mentality” to the “I mentality”. It is not about who is right, or who comes up with the brightest idea. It is about working together as a team to come up with the most optimum solution and to help bring out the genius of the team. It is about creative collaboration to gain clarity and alignment.

Barrier to understanding

The “disagree” part of “I disagree” assumes you understand the other, which in my experience is not the case 99% of the time. We approach the world with our conditioned mind, with our assumptions, our judgments, our filters, and as a result oftentimes we do not see the reality as it is. We tend to create our own version of the reality in our minds and then react to it, which in most cases can be very different from the reality out there. This awareness itself is enough to help us not jump too quickly to conclusions and judgments. Instead, to assume an open and curious mindset, encouraging us to ask questions and really understanding the other person’s point of view.

Blocking the flow

The other side effect of “disagree” is that it blocks the flow of energy. It does not offer a path to go to. It does not add clarity or direction. It just stops the flow. In Aikido martial arts there is a fundamental principle to not oppose or block the opponent’s attack, but to flow with it and redirect it. If we use this same principle in the context of a disagreement, rather than negating, blocking, or stopping by saying “I disagree”, we can choose to first understand and then harness the energy and find the optimum path to redirect the energy toward. This way, our energies are united and go toward a shared desired outcome, and as a result, can create clarity and alignment.

Creative collaboration

Getting out of the “I disagree” mode is the first and primary step to moving into the “creative collaboration” zone. This is where ideas are built upon each other, are triggered and inspired by each other. The energy is creative and curious. it flows, it builds, it breaks barriers and goes beyond the mind of a person, and turns into a collective, collaborative expression. Here differences of opinions are healthy and constructive, and it fuels creativity. Each person brings forth their unique perspectives and point of views, without clinging or ego identifications. This is where the genius of a team gets an opportunity to manifest itself.