The most difficult issues we face in life, whether as couples, families, organizations, societies, nation-states, or human beings, cannot be resolved by individuals acting alone, by elites acting autocratically, or by factions acting in their own distinct and exclusive self-interest. They can only be resolved by coming together across our differences, listening and talking to each other, exploring our disagreements, working collaboratively, reaching consensus, deciding what to do democratically, resolving our differences, and acting jointly in the interest of the whole.
Yet working collaboratively with those who are different, those we dislike, those with whom we disagree, even those whose actions we find repellent, requires higher order listening, dialogue, negotiation, and conflict resolution skills, each of which requires more time and greater effort than acting alone. It can be exhausting, irksome, messy and galling to listen openly and honestly engage opinions and interests that diverge sharply from our own. As a result, most often we act unilaterally, ignoring the needs and desires of those who do not agree with us.
But when we act individually or unilaterally and in our own exclusive self-interest in matters that directly and significantly impact others, often without including or even informing them, they feel disrespected, as we would, and are more inclined to resist, undermine our solutions, and respond in ways that trigger costly chronic conflicts. Indeed, our history as a species is replete with examples of problems made far worse by refusals to listen, rejections of communication, dismissals of dialogue, isolations from participation, constrictions of collaboration, and exclusions from decision-making.