Neutral environments
facilitate better disagreements.
Think back to your
last disagreement. Instead of focusing on the content of the disagreement, try
focusing on the space where it took place. Was it inside or outside? In public
or in private? Online or offline? Did you feel safe expressing yourself? Do you
think others felt safe expressing themselves? 
Disagreements don’t
take place in vacuums. The spaces where our disagreements occur can seriously
influence their outcomes. Imagine a discussion that takes place in a classroom.
It’s face to face. There are set classroom rules that all discussion
participants abide by, and there’s a teacher present to arbitrate and
adjudicate debate. 
Now consider that
same discussion on social media. It’s more democratic – no one person has more
authority than anyone else. It’s also more anarchic – there’s no set of rules
that govern behavior. Context can critically influence the way we argue. If you
were going to design an ideal space for productive discussion, how might that
space best be manifested?
Whether it’s in the
classroom, online, or elsewhere, the best context for an argument is a neutral
space. This may be a physical space or a mental one. Different ideas and
perspectives should be welcomed. In a neutral discussion space, everyone should
feel comfortable sharing their opinions and giving feedback on those of others.
There should also be an open discussion culture which allows participants to
acknowledge the anxieties and biases underpinning their opinions. 
Crucially, no one
should be removed from the group, even if their opinions are controversial.
Censorship is a short-term and ultimately ineffectual solution for radical
disagreement. No one should be forced to leave the space, either, though
participants should feel free to enter and leave the discussion as they see
fit, without needing to explain themselves. 
Finally, the space
should be flexible, with the capacity to evolve at the same pace as the people
that use it. In a physical space, this might mean that the participants arrange
the furniture in a way that they feel invites discussion. In a digital space,
this might mean that participants develop a shared online vocabulary of emojis
and internet-speak. Whether it’s online or offline, the space should be
configured to adapt to the needs of its participants.
You can have
unproductive disagreements anywhere, but a neutral discussion space is far more
conducive to productive disagreement. If you value productive disagreement,
it’s up to you to create the neutral spaces where they can best occur.
Ignoring ideas we
don’t like doesn’t make them go away.
It’s easy to have
productive disagreement when the disagreement in question occurs over something
benign, like which restaurant to pick for dinner. It’s less easy, but
ultimately rewarding, to engage in productive disagreement over more critical
issues, like politics. But when it comes to hot-button issues like euthanasia
and gun control, productive disagreement can mean engaging with ideas and
positions that we find truly abhorrent. How do we productively engage with
ideas that strike us as dangerous or repellent? 
When we meet a
repellent idea, our first impulse is to shut the discourse down with the voice
of avoidance. We don’t want to get involved in debate. We feel it’s
irresponsible to give these ideas airtime. We would prefer to pretend that the
people who hold these views didn’t exist. 
ignoring ideas won’t make them go away. And shutting down dialogue on extreme
issues only tends to radicalize extremists further. So, what’s the best course
of action? We need to learn how to accept dangerous ideas into the dialogue
without endorsing them. To do this, engage the offending idea with your head,
your heart, and your hands.
When you consider an
offensive idea with your head, or your rational mind, you should try and
understand the logic that underpins it – even if you disagree with that logic.
The goal here is to get as full a picture of your opponents’ thinking as
possible. Try to comprehend their perspective rather than speculate about
When you consider an
offensive idea with your heart, or your emotions, you’re trying to get to the
anxiety at its source. The best tool at your disposal here is questioning. Ask
genuine and open-ended questions and you might just uncover the argument’s
emotional core.
Finally, considering
an offensive idea with your hands, or your sense of utility, encourages you to
consider how this idea can be useful for you. Perhaps you can engage with this
idea in order to strengthen your arguments against it. Perhaps understanding
how this idea works on its proponents allows you to demystify its appeal.
When you think about
it, unproductive disagreement poses an enormous threat to our civilization. If
we can’t find a way to move forward on issues like gun control or climate
change, the consequences of our impasse could prove catastrophic. The world
needs people who can argue well. So roll up your sleeves and get to it!
We’re conditioned to
believe that arguments are negative and best avoided. The truth is, productive
disagreements are essential to healthy communication. We need to recalibrate
the way we approach disagreements, and make connection, growth, and
understanding the end goals for our arguments. When we disagree productively,
we’re all winners!

leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments box provided below.
a fruitful day!
Bodunrin is a graduate of Philosophy from the University of Ado-Ekiti. He is a
professional writer, he writes articles for publication and he anchors – ‘What
You Should Know’ on SHEGZSABLEZS’ blog.

You Should Know’ is a column that offers to educate and enlighten the public on
general falsehood and myths.

Oluwole Olusanya
Oluwole Olusanya is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of one of the fastest-growing lifestyle and entertainment website in the country. He is a banker, writer, blogger, public affairs analyst and a tax consultant. He anchors Trending Topics on SHEFFA where he shares his thoughts and opinions on trending issues. He is currently studying for a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at the University of South Wales, Wales, United Kingdom. He has diplomas in Banking and Finance, Investigative Journalism, Creative Writing, and Linguistics from Lagos State Polytechnic, Isolo, Lagos, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland and The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom.