When you have a meeting, is the team divided or in a respectful discussion with the goal or reaching a good-for-the-team and good-for-the-company decision?
This question grew out of a recent interview (of me) that live-streamed for viewers across the United States and around the world. The interview discussion had to do with getting involved in elected office: homeowner’s board, city, county, state, or national offices. We explored the angry divisions in the nation right now, while also noting that differences in social values and beliefs have divided the nation in the past two centuries; divisions that also pitted family members against family members.
Historical division seemed to be centered on beliefs and values that stood in service to (or against) a greater cause or good than we ourselves as individuals might be angry about. As we discussed during the interview, today’s divisions appear to be focused on individual likes and dislikes, individual behaviors and misbehaviors.
“We can begin in our own homes modeling discussion and problem solving rather than division and extremism,” pointed out Dale Maxwell during the interview.
Does the difference between division and discussion matter? YES.
Division is to separate into parts that are different (divide the toast from the donuts), or sometimes the same (divide the donuts into two groups for two meeting room events), in order to make a decision or to take action, or to make a point. When division turns angry, negative results typically follow. One corporation with which I am familiar saw divisions so deep that employee behavior turned verbally abusive and people ended up being fired. Division can divide and harm. Conversely, divisions can illustrate our differences, hopefully leading to discussions that lead to problem solving, agreement to disagree, and/or clear go-forward actions.
Discussion is to engage in conversation that illuminates, informs, uncovers ideas, potentially creates conflict or division, potentially unifies people for action, and can inspire people. Discussion requires a willingness to listen to other points of view, a sharing of ideas, and an ability to identify differences as well as common ground. Discussion turned angry can lead to division. Discussion focused on positive outcomes can unite a group in productive action.
I invite you to choose discussion as your go-to communication approach. You’ll find that more productivity and greater positive commitment to results will more often be the outcome for your teams and organization.