A well-functioning organization, like a well-functioning society, requires employees and leaders alike to have productive conversations, even in the face of different views and opinions — in fact, especially in the face of such differences.
On social media and in real life, we regularly find ourselves engaging with people whose core beliefs and values seem to clash with our own. Disagreements about whether masks slow the spread of the coronavirus, whether people should be allowed to work at home during the pandemic, or who should have won the U.S. presidential election too often degenerate into heated arguments.
The reason many of us naturally try to dodge potentially contentious discussions is people often prefer to engage in conversations with those who will confirm their beliefs rather than disagree with them. This happens because we inaccurately predict how we’ll feel in such conversations. For instance, political partisans overestimate how unpleasant it will be to engage in talks with people who have opposing views.
When we appear receptive to listening to and respecting others’ opposing positions, they find our arguments to be more persuasive, our research shows. In addition, receptive language is contagious: It makes those with whom we disagree more receptive in return. People also like others more and are more interested in partnering with them when they seem receptive.