Constructive Conflict

Increasingly, I’m speaking at colleges and universities about the hottest topic going: how to achieve diversity and inclusion. Most educators see diversity as a matrix of skin colors, genders, religious affiliations and sexual orientations. But diversity is also about airing different perspectives. At institutions of higher education, intellectual diversity should be a no-brainer.

It’s not, and that’s because of the dirty little secret about intellectual diversity: different viewpoints will naturally offend different people. So offense isn’t a price to be avoided at any cost. Offense is the cost of honest diversity.

For me, this issue isn’t abstract or theoretical. Every day, people post nasty comments about something that my team and I work our tails off to create, namely Moral Courage TV. The insults are tailor-made to offend.

What, then, to do? I’ve been told to ignore the “trolls.” They want nothing more than for you to “take the bait.” Therefore, “don’t feed them.”

That may be true about some critics, but if treat everyone with a hostile opinion as a troll, how do we grow from critique? How can we hope to change minds? Above all, how can we expect to be heard if we aren’t willing to hear others?

Someone has to step up first. With that in mind, I’ve started this vlog. Every video is my response to a viewer who’s commented on a Moral Courage video. Most of the comments that I’ve chosen to engage are negative. My aim is to role-model how destructive disagreement can be turned into constructive conflict.

Notice that I said, “conflict.” I’m not sugar-coating the reality that there’s a clash of perspectives here. Still, that clash can be useful — a source of creative tension. As Martin Luther King, Jr. told his critics, “I’m not afraid of the word tension. I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive non-violent tension that is necessary for growth.”

If you want to develop the skill of making conflict constructive rather than destructive, please subscribe to the Moral Courage Channel. I’ll post a new vlog entry every couple of weeks. Already, you can watch several of them, which I’ve recorded from various places around the world.

And a sincere note to my detractors: Feel free to offend me. I’m ready to engage you.

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