How to Connect With People Whose Opinions Differ From Your Own

Cover detail from Reconcilable Differences by Dawna Markova, Ph.D. and Angie McArthur

Editor's Note:

Dawna Markova, Ph.D., is the CEO emeritus of Professional Thinking Partners, an organization that teaches collaborative thinking to CEOs and senior executives around the world. Angie McArthur is the CEO of Professional Thinking Partners and co-founder of SmartWired and the Smart Parenting Revolution. Together, they authored Reconcilable Differences, and here, they share tips for connecting with people that think differently.

This election has broken the bowl of democracy that has held us together for over 200 years.

If you find yourself feeling discouraged and disheartened, you are not alone. Too many people we know are avoiding talking about what really matters with their relatives, neighbors, and friends. Wanting to avoid conflict with those on the “other side,” they just safetalk about sports, movies, and the weather, slowly withdrawing and withholding respect.

We don’t believe it is going to be the government that puts the bowl back together again. We believe it will be each of us. We believe that there is something more you can do in addition to voting. The dynamics of this election have created a fragmentation that politicians cannot mend. If each of us can’t do it within our own circles of significant others, how can they? The two of us have been deeply engaged in the exploration of how people find the courage to connect with those who think differently. We’ve worked as professional thinking partners to CEO’s, global senior leadership teams, couples, families, and individuals.

Twenty years ago, Dawna was one of the co-creators of the viral revolution “Random Acts of Kindness,” which was a call to balance the random acts of violence that were spreading around the world at that time. We are a mother and daughter-in-law duo who think as differently as any two people can. Nonetheless, we’ve learned to use our intellectual diversity to co-author two major books: 2016 Collaborative Intelligence: Thinking With Those Who Think Differently (2016), and now Reconcilable Differences: Finding the Courage To Connect In a Disconnected World. In Japan there exists a traditional art form, kintsugi, which creates beauty in the broken places of a ceramic bowl by mending the cracks with gold. Rather than trying to disguise or cover up the break, kintsugi repairs the bowl with gold, incorporating what is damaged into its beauty and increasing its value.


You can learn to create this gold in your own lives with two innate resources: curiosity—opening your mind to what can be possible—and courage, allowing your heart to risk reaching out to connect with someone who thinks differently than you do.

Here are four questions to ask of someone who thinks differently from you:

  • What’s the gold that holds us together?
  • What’s most important to you about the issues this election has raised?
  • Are you open to hearing what’s most important to me?
  • How do you think we can stay connected even though we hold such different opinions?

This may not change our current politics, but it will change how we as family members, friends, and communities connect with each other so we can move forward with respect.

As you learn how to do this, we all learn.