Do you see the world correctly? Is anyone who disagrees with you wrong? That view of disagreement is what Professor Lee Ross calls naive realism. From "Lee Ross's Lecture on Barriers to Conflict Resolution" (The Daily Gazette - Swarthmore):
Naïve realism is the conviction that one sees the world as it is and that when people don’t see it in a similar way, it is they that do not see the world for what it is. Ross characterized naïve realism as “a dangerous but unavoidable conviction about perception and reality”. The danger of naïve realism is that while humans are good in recognizing that other people and their opinions have been shaped and influenced by their life experiences and particular dogmas, we are far less adept at recognizing the influence our own experiences and dogmas have on ourselves and opinions. We fail to recognize the bias in ourselves that we are so good in picking out in others.
Many conflict resolution experts recommend dialogue as a way of overcoming different views of reality. Does Ross? Yes, but a particular kind of dialogue.
Overcoming naïve realism is difficult because group dialogue, usually thought to be a good way of helping people to see things from the other point of view, can actually only further polarize opinions on a topic. Ordinary dialogue does not necessarily lead to recognition of the ambivalent nature of “right and wrong” on an issue. Ross’s suggested solution to this problem is to have members of a group
discussion each give one point of the other side’s argument that they think has some legitimacy. The study that Ross has done on this potential solution to conflict had the impressive result of 100% agreement being reached using this method.
While naïve realism is an unfortunate characteristic of the human psyche that none of us are immune to, resolutions to conflicts can be found through the acknowledgment of the other side’s point of view.
Click to hear a similar method of dialogue described by Professor Jacob Needleman.* (Complete video here.) Needleman demonstrates the method in his Why Can't We Be Good?, a book I once read straight through without stopping and since have recommended often. The method of dialogue used by Needleman is extraordinarily conducive to understanding the reality and position of another, which can move people a long way towards agreement. If you have not used or seen this method, read the demonstration in Needleman's book. He describes it well; I felt as if I was in the room. And I was moved, both in emotion and in my position on the dialogue's topic.
Hat tip to The Situationist for the article about Professor Ross's lecture.
*From Why Can't We Be Good?:
I do not claim originality for this exercise . . . [Needleman describes a number of dialogue traditions, including Tibetan Buddhist and American Indian.] Finally, and most poignantly, there exist in Christian art throughout the ages striking images of two monks speaking together bring visited by a white dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit, descending from on high, or arising from out of their own mouths.
If you really want to understand how the other side thinks, take on their role and ask your colleague to take yours. Try on their view, as Fisher and Ury suggest in Getting To Yes. If you begin to get their rationale and the emotions behind them, you can more effectively brainstorm the steps to resolution.