Friday, 23 March 2012


ambivalence, [æmˈbɪvələns], ambivalency;
n.  the simultaneous existence of two opposed and conflicting attitudes, emotions, etc.

I don't buy a lot of the personality theories.  So, when I say that I'm a youngest kid, therefore I don't like conflict, I'm talking out of my butt.  But I am the youngest of my siblings, and I do hate conflict (so they must be related).

Ever since I heard the phrase, "Give me ambivalence or give me something else!" (which prompted me to google the word), I've had an idea what ambivalence meant; but it was my co-worker Andrew, the manager of operations, who introduced it to my vocabulary.  His theory is that, while it is good to have a balanced perspective, it is sometimes too much to ask of every employee of your company.  Therefore, our dispatchers job is to get our installations done on schedule at all costs - hire installers, push installers to their limits, and so on.  But our Warranty manager offers a counterbalance to him - pushing everyone to slow down and keep their quality up, and pressuring the dispatcher not to hire anyone whose quality is not up to snuff (which he doesn't).  These two contrasting interests create balance, even though each worker is able to focus and excel at their specific task.

This is on my mind because I did a radio interview today (yes I'm humble-bragging - it was exciting and made me feel very important).  A Red Deer City Councillor introduced a notice of motion to require all new homes in Red Deer to be built solar ready (with the guts behind the wall in place so they don't need to be renovated to run solar panel wiring to the electrical panel, should the homeowner wish to install solar panels later in the life of the home).  As president of the Central Alberta Chapter of the Canadian Home Builders' Association, I had to represent the inhibitions of our members to the media.  I won't get into the nitty gritty details, but here's the interesting part: It's started a heck of a conversation!

This isn't about that event.  I'm not writing an editorial.  What it's about is this: society works because we DON'T agree on everything.  We would have less strife if we all agreed on everything, but we'd never. move. anywhere.  When you get passionate people having animated conversation, we're airing all the dirty laundry.  We're hashing it out - laying it all on the table.  And neither of us will get our whole way, but (if we were smart to begin with), we'll all leave smarter, and with horizons that are a little broader than we had before we came together.

If I'm trying to be both sides of the argument at the same time, I end up being mediocre. And I can't learn nearly as much from just myself.  But when we create the forum and engage in the conversation, we get society's wheels turning, and we can really get somewhere.

So, does conflict make you uncomfortable?  Well, it should.  And there are some kinds of conflict that are not productive. But is there such thing as growth without discomfort? Only when you're backsliding on your diet.


  1. True that!

    ..and really? The youngest is supposed to not like confrontation? My parents must have another kid out there somewhere ;)

  2. I'm not sure I completely agree here... I think that really smart people are able to understand both sides... might even be capable of representing both sides... but with all that in mind, can still decisively.

    I think a lot of the time the reason people disagree is either because of different priorities and values, or because of different background experiences/contexts informing their decision. Trying to understand another person's values and background experiences, and the way those things affect their decisions, is a good and useful thing, as long as it doesn't block you from being able to make an informed decision.

    1. Are you disagreeing with me to prove my point? That's META. Your second paragraph IS what I'm trying to get across. Though we enter the conversation from very different perspectives, we will hopefully exit it with a better understanding of each other. But we will likely still be the one representing our 'side' in the discourse.

  3. I've seen a number of disagreements where it wasn't really a disagreement so much as two people approaching the same view from opposite sides.

    Other times I've seen how different values cause disagreement -- that's why often it's important to figure out what a person's values are, in order to figure out why/how they're disagreeing with you... and to calculate whether it's even worth engaging in the debate at all (because you're just wasting your breath if you debate someone who is incapable or unwilling to understand how different values lead to different conclusions).

    1. The prerequisite to any discussion is communication skill. And a major ingredient to that is empathy. You're right. You can't have a productive discussion in 2 different languages.