Disagreement Practice

The word practice refers generally to “a complex set of actions coherently organized and oriented towards common aims” (Dokecki, 1996). From the practice of law to medical practice to piano practice to mindfulness practice, the word is used to capture the combination of both technical and artful aspects to a particular craft or discipline - especially those that require ongoing refinement and development over time.  

Disagreement practice refers to ongoing development of the capacity and skill of disagreement through frequent and widespread occurrence of cross-border conversation. (Talk is “cross-border” when some of the participants see themselves as significantly different from some of the other participants or when divergent and opposing viewpoints are in play).

This kind of conversation is, according to many theories of deliberative democracy and dialogue democracy, inherently democratic, community-building, and anti-totalitarian. This is because such talk is thought to help participants see issues from multiple points of view without insisting that any of them compromise their principles. It is also believed that people who routinely take part in such conversations are more likely to face difficult issues that politicians tend to avoid, thereby pushing — and enabling — politicians to do better. Above all it is believed that a healthy disagreement practice will help people see their political opponents as fellow human beings, with whom they have much in common, even as they disagree.

As with other practices, the assumption with disagreement practice is that we can get better at it over time - learning to explore differences more productively and grow in our capacity to both sit with our discomfort and gain insight from the encounter.  


  • How able or skilled or capable do you feel in engaging others different than you - especially in serious or sharp disagreements?  
  • Is disagreement something you would like to ‘get better’ in?  If so, how do you think that could happen?
Conversation Catalysts: 

Jacob Hess, Phil Neisser

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