Why can some people never agree?


The world is full of conflict.

The word conflict can be used to describe visible events – like war or a battle, an internal struggle – like one where someone is torn between principles, or the interplay and opposition between individuals.

But what causes this conflict in the first place? For example, why is it possible for two leaders in an organization to differ bitterly over what they should do and how they should work together?

The thing that is probably causing this is a mismatch between their worldviews.

A worldview is how someone sees things. It takes into account their knowledge, upbringing, language, philosophy, emotions and so on and fuses them into a lens through which a person sees and interprets what is happening around them.

The mistake many people make is thinking that they can change someone’s worldview.

To do so would require completely reprogramming them – starting with their language.

For example, you may have been at a party where someone from another culture said “Pass the salt”, instead of “Pass the salt, please”.

You might have been a little put out by the first statement and thought the person as a little rude.

The problem, however, is that some languages have respect baked in, while others, such as English, need you to add respect with an additional word like “please”.

Unless you interpret the sentence you are hearing using the language that the person who is speaking is most familiar with, you are likely to get it wrong.

So, if you can’t change their point of view, what can you do?

The answer (cutting out a long of theory) is that you have to come to an accommodation.

An accommodation is a compromise – something you can both live with. Not a situation where one wins and the other loses – but a situation that both of you can say is acceptable.

It also helps to make an effort to see why the other person has a particular worldview. Leo Apostel writes that there are six things that make up a worldview:

  1. Explanation: A worldview can explain what is happening around you now.
  2. Futurology: It can describe possible futures and what might happen.
  3. Values / Ethics: It gives you answers to the question “What should you do?”.
  4. Theory of action: It tells you how to act in order to reach your goals.
  5. Theory of knowledge: It helps you tell true from false.
  6. Origin theory: It tells you where it came from – how it was created.

It isn’t hard to look at some religious worldviews and see how conflict between religions can emerge from how its followers answer these six questions.

But this remains true for cultures, communities and businesses – worldviews are likely to be in play everywhere people interact.

One approach to creating harmony is by applying the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

But there is an even better rule – The Platinum Rule.

The Platinum Rule says: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.

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