Agreeing to Disagree is so Passé

Musings from an Interview on Talk of the Nation, 12/31/09, hosted by Neil Conan (with apologies to NPR in lifting this excerpt but honestly, I could not find the Terms of Use on the Talk of the Nation page  and this is noncommercial use, to the best of my knowledge).

So I was driving in my car last week and heard this clip on NPR. And then I arrived at my destination so I did not hear the rest of the interview. But I heard the piece that I guess I was supposed to hear because this has joggled in my brain since last week. Read on – this is the clip that I heard:

“CONAN…But first, Steve Landsburg. His new book is called “The Big Questions.” He’s a professor of economics at the University of Rochester and joins us today from a studio at our member station there, WXXI. Nice to have you on TALK OF THE NATION.

Mr. STEVEN LANDSBURG (Author, “The Big Questions: Tackling the Problems of Philosophy with Ideas from Mathematics, Economics and Physics” – Mare note: this guy wrote a book called “More Sex is Better Sex – The Unconventional Wisdom of Economics” which honestly sounds very appealing at first and then not at all. oh well.): Thanks very much.

CONAN: And this is a talk show, so you may imagine we’re no stranger to having occasionally two guests with diverse opinions, and we frequently have to agree to disagree, just to move on with things, but that, you argue, is fundamentally dishonest.

Mr. LANDSBURG: Well, you know, there’s a big literature in economics about the question of whether people can honestly disagree with each other, the point being that we really ought to treat other people’s opinions with the same respect that we treat our own.

If I believe something very strongly, and you believe the opposite thing very strongly, the very strength of your belief should, at some level, shake my belief. You say that the Red Sox are going to win the World Series.

I say the Yankees. You say no, the Red Sox. I say the Yankees. You say the Red Sox. Every time you come back and say the Red Sox again, that gives me more information about how very sure you are of yourself and should make me a little less sure of myself, because after all, you might know what you’re talking about.

That process, it turns out, has to converge. There are – economists have been very disturbed about this for a long time. We feel like there ought to be some way we could walk away and agree to disagree, but every time you try and write down a formal model of the way this disagreement goes, you discover that honest people have to end up agreeing with each other.

And of course, in the real world, what happens is we never agree with each other, which has to lead you to suspect that maybe we are doing something in these arguments other than honestly seeking truth.

Maybe we’re trying to show off. Maybe we’re trying to show how smart we are. Maybe we’re trying to show how dumb the other guy is. But if we were honestly seeking truth, we would agree a whole lot more than we do…”

So here’s my joggling brain cogitating on this (not jogging, no, I don’t jog. Lordy knows I don’t do that, not with my knees and all their issues)… First of all, this is a no-brainer. Of course it’s our shadow that is blocking us from agreeing. Our shadow loves to throw us under the bus at each and every opportunity so we won’t find peace with another or ourselves. Shadows feed on that stuff. Shadows are far too fat, as it is.

But this dialogue was so apropos to me and some of my dynamics as I’m very actively involved with a group of people (whom I’ve known for years – we’re like a family – which is part of the problem) to create a very ambitious project. Very ambitious. But we keep on slipping and sliding in our process because some of us just don’t get along super well. Or we’re very triggered by each other and thus we don’t listen to each other very well. And maybe it’s our ego’s, our insecurities, whatever… I suspect it is all of that and more.

But the bottom line is that our process needs a lot of work, serious work. And so, as I’ve learned through painful scratches and dents along the way, what is it that I can do differently to change the process? I can only change what I’m doing or how I’m responding internally. And hence, saying externally.

I actually spent three weeks traveling in New Zealand pondering this since part of the reason that I went there in late Nov – early Dec was to take a break and escape to clear my head and my battered psyche from all the group dysfunction.

And this short excerpt from Talk of the Nation (thank you, Neil Conan) encapsulated my ‘stuff’ right there. My ego and my sense of superiority that comes over me in ugly times, especially mtgs since this group is like my family – my need to be RIGHT has blocked me from listening. Blocked me from being compassionate and open to other people’s mindframes and worldviews and FEELINGS, to help all of us develop a strategy that incorporates our collective wisdom and creativity.

And I need to shed my ego before I enter or engage in any business stuff with my group. I need to shed so much of this wounded shadow stuff…

But the cool thing is that I’m aware of this and already more conscious of my patterns and my fears that trigger me. I’m committed to listening far more. I’m committed to not cutting people off before they speak. I’m committed to honoring their fears and finding ways to turn their legitimate fears into positive resolutions to move forward. I’m committed to far more positive ways of dialoguing and strategizing.

Now to fully live it. Ah ha! Therein lies the key.

Ain’t life a trip? Onward to more productive mtgs this month and the following and the following. Cuz we’re going to achieve this ambitious project, oh yes!

Thanks, Neil!

About Mare Cromwell

Referred to as “The Voice of Earth Mother” by a gifted Shoshone elder, Mare Cromwell is a multi-award-winning author, Medicine woman/Lightworker and healer. She has also been told by another gifted elder that her work with Earth Mother is in the prophecies. Her books include: "The Great Mother Bible"; "Messages from Mother.... Earth Mother"; and "If I gave you God’s phone number.... Searching for Spirituality in America". She has studied with Native American teachers for twenty-two years and sat on the World Council for Wisdom Gatherings for three years. Mare leads workshops on our Sacred Planet-Earth Mother, Womb Wisdom and Sacred Silliness and more. She is the visionary and producer of the 1000 Goddesses Gathering in Washington DC. Mare loves to be involved in Ceremony. She is also a former worm herder. She calls Western Maryland home.
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