Community & Government

Agreeing to Disagree

Bill Clinton

Lesson time 14:03 min

Any truly great undertaking is going to require changing some minds. Discover how to work with people you don’t agree with and hear how President Clinton once enlisted a very unlikely tool in a tense situation.

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Topics include: You Won’t Change Minds With Derision · View Your Adversaries as People · Remember the Moon Rock


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Creative cooperation is really important for two reasons. One is if you only are willing to work with people that you know like and agree with, you're going to miss a huge talent pool of people who might be able to make a distinctive contribution to some endeavor. And the second reason is if you want to get something done that's really important and whatever you do is going to last, you want to get some people who disagree with you on other things to join you on this. When people used to jump on me about, you know, doing business with all these Republicans, I said don't forget Mandela. I mean, when Mandela got out of prison after 27 years, he got a lot of publicity for inviting his jailers to his inauguration. But the more important decision really was that he invited the leaders of the political parties who kept him in prison for 27 years into his government. And he called me one night-- I'll never forge it-- when we were both in the office, and he said they're just giving me hell. And I said who. I said the Afrikaners. He said, oh, no, no, no. He said my people. The ANC, they're giving me hell. They're saying, Madiba, they kept you in prison. They shot us. They beat us up. And you've turn around and put them in the cabinet. Why? I laughed. I said and what did you tell them. He said I told him I said we just got to vote for the first time in 300 years. Is there anything we can run on our own? Can we run the banks on our own? Can we run the big businesses on our own? Can we run the military on our own, the universities? Is there anything we can run on our own? And he said for now, the answer is no. Maybe someday, not now. He said I'm the one who stayed in prison 27 years. If I can deal with it, so can you. But my point is from time immemorial, people have had disagreements. But now we're being told that if we don't do it our way, we should just shut everything down, and that's crazy. Life is a matter of imperfection. It's a matter of two steps forward, one step back, two steps forward, one step back. You do the math. You keep doing it, you'll be way down the road. [MUSIC PLAYING] I think that the way you make an argument is sometimes more important than the argument you make. That is if you speak about someone who disagrees with you as if they're a self-evident idiot without enough sense to come in out of the rain, you're not going to persuade many people who don't already agree with you. Now if you're writing like an op ed column in a newspaper where people already agree, that's one thing. But if you're actually trying to reach people, you don't undermine the integrity of your argument by simply saying I really think these people are mistaken about this. I think they're wrong about it, and I just don't agree. And then you make your argument. But if you talk-- if you use words and adjectives that are derisive, it may inflame your own people more. But especially if you're try...

About the Instructor

Commander in chief from 1993 to 2001, Bill Clinton has spent a lifetime navigating complex challenges and bridging deep divides. Now the 42nd president of the United States teaches you how to be an effective, empathetic leader. Learn how to assemble, inspire, and empower diverse teams, mediate conflict, manage criticism—and create a personal framework to guide you and your team toward a shared vision.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Bill Clinton

Drawing from his career in politics, President Bill Clinton teaches you how to inspire diverse teams, manage criticism, and mediate conflict.

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