90: Disagreeing Better

PoP podcast episode 90 with Tammy Lenski

As humans, we have a hard time setting aside our own opinions and beliefs to consider someone else’s. This is especially true when it’s something we care about. So we cluster ourselves in communities with those who think like us, avoiding confrontation at all costs.

This begs the question: is it possible to have strong conflicting opinions and still maintain strong relationships?

Today’s guest, Dr. Tammy Lenski believes we can and we must. The goal is not to avoid conflict. It’s to engage in it more constructively.

As a conflict resolution writer, speaker, and teacher, Dr. Lenski works with people who want to or must stay together but are living in a state of tension. She helps buffer their relationships from the negative effects of conflict.

On this episode we discuss:

  • What happens when we avoid conflict in our lives and work;
  • The difference between being submissive, assertive, and aggressive and what we should aim for;
  • Positive outcomes that are associated with productive arguments;
  • How to name a problem in a way that’s useful; and
  • The easiest way to approach difficult conversations.


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Dr. Tammy Lenski writes, speaks, and teaches about conflict resolution in business and personal relationships. Since 1997 Tammy has worked with thousands of individuals and organizations worldwide as a mediator, executive coach, speaker, and educator. Author of two conflict resolution books, Tammy is the recipient of the Association for Conflict Resolution’s prestigious Mary Parker Follett award for innovative and pioneering work in her field.

Tammy’s current work centers on helping people disagree better by creating the conditions for robust collaboration and sound decisions that also buffer our most important personal and professional relationships from the negative effects of conflict. She lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire, with her husband of 31 years and an exuberant mutt.


  • We must talk to as many people as possible for as long as possible while being as open as possible.
  • Conflict produces better creativity, conversation, and results.
  • Submissive means we put others’ needs before ours. Aggressive means we put our own needs before others’ needs. Assertive means we bring our needs to the table while also recognizing others have needs to be met.
  • People need to be understood before they’re willing to be educated.
  • When we enter a situation trying to convince or persuade someone, we’re setting ourselves up to fail.
  • Time and place matters. Pressing someone to have a conversation right now because we want to have it generally will not go well.


“Avoidance leads to bigger problems.”

“You can’t educate people into agreeing with you.”

“Our primary job is to name the problem in a way that the other person is interested in and to then understand it from their perspective.”

“Assertive and aggressive deserved to be distinguished.”

“Brand is not about pulling everyone in. It’s about pushing some people out.”