Productive Disagreements added to the idea list

Buster Benson
Published in
2 min readAug 10, 2022

This is the 6th idea I’ve added to the list of Ideas I’m Mulling. So far, there’s the codex vitae (book of beliefs), prisoner’s dilemma, the capabilities approach, wicked problems, and cognitive biases.

I’ve been mulling this idea for a while… so there’s a lot of context to include here.

First, a definition: disagreements are conversations where there are two or more perspectives that differ in an unacceptable way. These differing perspectives can exist within ourselves, between individuals, between groups, etc. It’s important to consider the word “unacceptable” here too, because if what we have is an difference that we find acceptable, for whatever reason, then it’s not a disagreement. Within the realm of all disagreements, the productive ones are those that result in one of four fruit: insight, connection, enjoyment, and/or security. Most unproductive disagreements fixate on the fruit of security above all else (getting a concession from the other side that they have let go of their difference), but I strongly believe that if we focus on the other three fruit first that the fourth one comes as a freebie.

The ability to have productive disagreements is, in my opinion, one of the most important meta-skills for us to cultivate. I wrote a book titled Why Are We Yelling?: The Art of Productive Disagreement about 8 tips for cultivating this skill. They are:

  1. Watch how anxiety sparks
  2. Talk to your internal voices
  3. Develop honest bias
  4. Speak for yourself
  5. Ask questions that invite surprising answers
  6. Build arguments together
  7. Cultivate neutral spaces
  8. Accept reality, then participate in it

A bit more about each of the 8 tips is here:

Why Are We Yelling? is a book about 8 things we can practice in order to improve the art of productive disagreement.
A quick intro to the 8 tips:

As far as how this continues to be an idea that I am mulling, I think even with these 8 tips, there is a lifetime of practice and mastery required in order to actually be able to fully live up to the possibility of productive disagreement. I’m definitely no master, myself. Even the first step, of watching how anxiety sparks, encapsulates a lifetime of mastery. So maybe the real interest behind this interest is in continuing to keep these questions and practices alive in my life, and continue to follow the new paths that open up as a result of having productive disagreements with people in my life.

See the entry for productive disagreements as it was when this article was published, and as it is now.

Buster Benson

Product at @Medium. Author of “Why Are We Yelling? The Art of Productive Disagreement”. Notetaker at Builder of