Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Graceful Disagreement

I was reading a post on a recent conference by Debsnet - aka the édu flâneuse - when she said "scholars brought diverse perspectives to the same general topic of leadership in education. They agreed and disputed. They converged and diverged. It was a great example of respectful, well-considered and articulate debate. Graceful disagreement. Elegant contestation. Research as conversation".

Wow. What a lovely phrase. I loved the sense of respect, approachability, egalitarianism, openness and richness of the words.

For me, this evoked a sense of debate in its full majesty, where the true pursuit is not our own ego, but the real development of knowledge and mastery. A place where we can truly put aside our own agendas, shoulder-chips and weaknesses, and create something that is larger and more enduring than ourselves.

Debsnet's ideas link in well with an article written by Rebecca Gelding on kindess which I also read today. Rebecca cited Anne Galloway who tweeted in 2014 “We are all smart – distinguish yourself by being kind” (citing Professor Charles Gordon, Sociology & Anthropology HoD, Carleton University, 2012). We can make disagreement a learning opportunity when we shift focus from "win" to win:win.

Kindness can - and should - exist in academia, despite its reputation of being the last place on the planet that our ego is ripped off firmly stuck to the editing plaster.  We can present bad news in a way that is not dishonest, but focuses on what we can do to repair errors, not on the errors themselves. We can ask for more information, we can be the naive inquirer, without agenda and just ask questions, ask about alternatives, ask why they chose what they chose (Miller & Rollnick, 1991). We can also ask about "that", not about "their": a great distancing tool for taking the proximity heat out of ownership (Shetty, 2013). And kindness has an advantage: it spreads.

Another powerful punch for looking after the views of everyone, and keeping respect close to our hearts.




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