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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Engage Cognitive Conflict

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


September 27, 2016

Cognitive conflict differs from affective conflict in that it is about ideas, not people. Affective conflict creates stress and can cause a “fight or flight” reaction in the brain. This causes a loss of cognitive capacity and reduces meeting effectiveness.

Healthy groups embrace cognitive conflict as a means for making effective decisions that consider multiple perspectives. The language of cognitive conflict avoids such statements as,

“I think you’re wrong about that,” or “I disagree.” Instead such stems as, “I see it another way,” or “Here is another perspective on this,” provide emotional safety.

In high conflict situations, high structured protocols also create emotional safety. Examples might be the Assumptions Wall and Focusing Four. Additional protocols are available on the Adaptive Schools app.

We invite you to observe the ways in which your local groups handle conflict. Also, consciously try some language strategies for maintaining cognitive conflict.

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