Community & Government

Reconciling Differences and Disagreements

Secretaries Albright and Rice teach the importance of respecting versus tolerating differences, the dangers of “groupthink,” and how to work civilly with people who disagree.

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Topics include: Groupthink and the Importance of Differences * Tips for Handling Differences and Disagreements


CONDOLEEZZA RICE: When you're a diplomat, you need to build consensus often with people with whom you disagree. And there is no skill that is more lacking in our modern life than the ability to civilly listen to people who have different views and to be able to come to some kind of consensus. [MUSIC PLAYING] MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I have been very concerned about the fact that we kind of tolerate differences. I don't like the word "tolerate." That means "put up with." And I think it would be interesting to respect differences and find out what the basis of them really is. And it's very important with somebody that you know that you have disagreements with is to find out what the basis of their thinking is, why they think it, and not necessarily try to persuade them to think the way you think but to figure out whether it's possible and actually important to try to solve problems with people with whom you have different views, because it enlarges the scope of the decision. CONDOLEEZZA RICE: When one talks about differences, it's important to be careful what we're really talking about here. So Madeleine is a Democrat. I'm a Republican. And very often, people can share principles and values, which I think we do, and still have policy differences. But these days, one of the problems and one of the reasons that I think it's so fraught and feels so polarized is that, rather than saying, all right, we may have the same set of values, the same principles here, we disagree about this policy, so let's talk about whether we can come to some agreement on this policy, we quickly go to our corners and assume that they are violating my principles or you are violating my principles. And I think that's one of the problems that we're having. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I think it's very important to try to figure out why people think what they do and then see whether there's any way not to be rude and say, I can't work with this person, but see whether there's any way to reconcile some of the differences. I do think the part of what you're trying to do generally is to reconcile. I wrote a book about fascism, a warning. I was trying to figure out the history of a lot of this. What would happen is you had a leader who basically has decided that we'll have nothing to do with those with whom you differ. And that's why I have made it a big point of saying that you have to have discussions, respectful ones, with people that you differ from and try to figure out what it's really about. And I also think we shouldn't be afraid of differences if they are not violent or if they can be well-explained. The problem is that we don't have enough of those genuine discussions. And I just have to say, in my own case, people will not believe this, but I spent a lot of time with Jesse Helms and we disagreed about practically everything. When I first started as UN ambassador, Jesse Helms was just a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. When I was at the UN...

About the Instructor

Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice stood toe to toe with dictators, counseled presidents, and managed to find common ground on issues that still polarize us today. Sit down with two legendary secretaries of state as they reveal how to build bridges, hold boundaries, and apply history’s lessons to everyday challenges. The class presents an intimate portrait of the late Dr. Albright’s legacy for the next generation.

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Madeleine Albright & Condoleezza Rice

Former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice teach you to settle differences in everyday life like a diplomat.

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