I happened to see this article, What Happens in the Brain When We Disagree, a few minutes after coaching a client on an important negotiation. The essence of what these scientists discovered by watching brain activity during a hypothetical real estate negotiation is, when people disagreed, their brains became less sensitive to the strength of others’ opinions.

(1) If we sense that the counterparty essentially agrees with our fundamental position we are able to logically consider their evidence, even if it contradicts our position.

(2) If we sense they disagree, our response is dominated by the fear-generating parts of the brain and we dig into a defensive, less logical posture.

This confirms the old adage, Start by establishing common ground, e.g., Philosopher Daniel Dennett on How to Argue.

How to compose a successful critical commentary: 

  1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.
  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

Is there anything about human relations that has not been written thousands of years ago?


He that answereth a matter before he heareth it,
it is folly and shame unto him

Proverbs 18:13



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