Don’t shy away from an argument!

Dear reader,

At first glance, this is an intention which irritates and incites instead of having a reconciling effect. At second glance, it encourages not averting arguments but to address differing opinions openly and to exchange views on it. Only in this way we succeed in creating the clarity needed for joint, successful actions.

Decisive is, thus, the culture of debate, i.e. the mode how we deal with that issue: almost always orientated in substance and in a fair way. As we all know, regrettably this is not possible in any case. This is true for all courses of life: family, neighbours, professional environment, politics and society.

 In case neighbours are at loggerheads, mediators help to overcome apparently infusible situations, to open views for either side and to search jointly for solutions or – if nothing works – for lawyers and judges.

At the workplace, it is different: there the challenge starts where staff – even sometimes the boss – needs orientation and must learn what and how it should do better. Here, it is subject to training to voice criticism in such a way, that it is understood as both constructive and helpful. Our management survey 2014 has shown, that – in this ranking – it is family, staff and colleagues who we confide ourselves in cases of conflicts, and it is the speakers’ council, which we ask for advice or mediation. Or it is external advisers who – contracted by the company – will lead us by way of coaching back to the path which enables again joint engagements.

In order to avoid disputes, companies inter alia orientate themselves at the Corporate Governance Codex which defines legal regulations for running and controlling German joint stock companies.  Those companies, too, establish values, which are used as benchmarks for themselves, for their managers and staff and, thus, form the pillars of corporate culture. To live values is not more expansive, but saves money, as employees who feel fairly treated have a higher level of motivation. This, however, holds only as long as sanctions apply in cases of contravention and as management lives these values as well.

Differing opinions in politics and society are the media’s playground. Rather seldom, it is about the quality of arguments, but predominantly it is about winners and losers in a dispute. As politicians do not like to end as losers, by times driven by the media, factual substance and contexts become secondary.

As a matter of fact, it can happen that criminal acts such as trespassing a facility, chaining oneself onto a rail track or physical harm vis-a-vis employees is endorsed by the media or at least accepted and not clearly condemned by politicians, as it supposedly serve e. g. climate protection objectives in whose name such perpetrations were done.

How do we create a culture of debate which helps us to achieve a joint approach from differing opinions that serves the agreed objectives?  

Above all, it is important to take serious and to listen to each other, to try to understand the opposing individual’s arguments and perspectives and, finally, to avoid that he or she loses his or her face. And: trying to keep the debate on the factual level.


Bernhard v. Rothkirch