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Navigating Adversarial Collaborations with Mike Maughan and Angela Duckworth

Embark on a journey to unravel the dynamics of adversarial collaborations with Mike Maughan and Angela Duckworth. Discover the transformative power of disagreement and how it can lead to innovation and progress.

Explore the intricacies of adversarial collaborations and learn how dissent can be a catalyst for positive change. Dive into the comprehensive insights below to gain a deeper understanding of this intriguing concept and its potential impact on diverse fields.

Navigating Adversarial Collaborations with Mike Maughan and Angela Duckworth

In this enlightening podcast, Mike Maughan and Angela Duckworth explore the concept of adversarial collaborations, shedding light on how constructive disagreement can lead to breakthroughs and foster innovation. The discussion navigates the challenges and benefits of embracing diverse perspectives, providing valuable insights for anyone seeking to enhance collaboration in various aspects of life.

Mike Maughan and Angela Duckworth deliver a thought-provoking dialogue that challenges conventional notions of collaboration. The podcast skillfully explores the concept of adversarial collaborations, emphasizing the positive outcomes that can arise from respectful disagreement. Both speakers bring their expertise to the table, creating a dynamic and engaging conversation. The exploration of real-world examples and practical strategies adds depth to the discussion, making it accessible to a broad audience. Overall, a compelling podcast that encourages a fresh perspective on collaboration and the role of disagreement in driving positive change.


Leadership, Psychology, Innovation, Communication, Collaboration, Business, Personal Development, Education, Conflict Resolution, Social Sciences


How do you have a productive dialogue with someone whose views you reject or downright abhor? Mike Maughan and Angela Duckworth, co-hosts of the No Stupid Questions podcast, draw strategies from a variety of fields, including psychology and public policy, with the aim of helping you have more productive disagreements. Maughan and Duckworth look for opportunities for human connection while teaching you how to disarm angry people and create positive outcomes from heated debates.


  • Learn to disagree better through “adversarial collaborations.”
  • Don’t avoid disagreements. Instead, seek shared agreements, and validate the other person’s point of view.
  • To have more productive disagreements, don’t zealously champion your position if you’re unsure. Find common ground, recognize the opposing argument and draw positives from the debate process.


Learn to disagree better through “adversarial collaborations.”

Today’s world is rife with bitter hatred and contempt, especially regarding politics. But how can humans discuss their differences in a constructive, rather than deleterious, way? In life, people are taught how to get along harmoniously, but that teaching rarely extends to how to disagree or engage in healthy conflict.

“So much of learning to disagree better is just acknowledging that maybe what we think we believe so strongly could be wrong. (Mike Maughan)”

The aim isn’t to eliminate conflict. That would be counterproductive. Instead, people must learn how to have civil, constructive “adversarial collaborations.” This term, popularized by psychologist Daniel Kahneman, describes a framework in which two people with opposing perspectives work together to resolve the matter under dispute. Both parties collaborate by designing a study or experiment that aims to further knowledge of the controversial topic. The parties set ground rules – say, agreeing in advance to let the data determine who is right. To benefit from an adversarial collaboration, both parties ultimately must admit where they were wrong and what they learned from the experience.

To engage in healthy conflict, parties must commit to broadening their perspectives. Consider the old analogy of five blind people who all touch the same elephant: If one person touches, say, the elephant’s tail and another, its leg, their descriptions of the experience will vary radically. But adversarial collaborations allow you to remove yourself from your myopic viewpoint and understand the other person’s point of view. In so doing, you might alter your opinion as you accrue greater context. Thus, adversarial collaborations offer “both/and” rather than “either/or” perspectives.

Don’t avoid disagreements. Instead, seek shared agreements, and validate the other person’s point of view.

In the book Conflicted, corporate communicator and journalist Ian Leslie writes, “The only thing worse than having toxic arguments is not having arguments at all.” Instead, find strategies to have more productive disagreements. For example, avoid the temptation to disagree with others in writing, email them an angry message or criticize them on social media. Instead, take time to communicate either in person or on the phone. As UC Berkeley professor Juliana Schroeder explains, the simple act of listening to another person’s voice can help you humanize them more when arguing about a controversial issue.

“Next time you disagree with someone, maybe don’t text them. Maybe don’t tweet. Maybe don’t whip off an angry email. Maybe pick up the phone and hear their voice and let them hear yours.” (Angela Duckworth)

If you’re trying to quell the anger of a person who’s trying to start a fight with you, it can help to validate their perspective. Consider an Apple Store employee who, rather than responding to angry customers with the words “I know,” started saying, “That’s true” or “You’re right.” The simple change of wording removes the focus from you and puts it on the other person. The Apple Store worker found that this tactic helped calm customers’ anger. After you validate the other’s perspective, the person will typically be more amenable to hearing your own.

To have more productive disagreements, don’t zealously champion your position if you’re unsure. Find common ground, recognize the opposing argument and draw positives from the debate process.

Use the HEAR method, developed by academic researchers Julia Minson, David Hagmann and Kara Luo, to disagree better. HEAR is an acronym that stands for the following action steps:

  1. “Hedge your claims” – Don’t overstate your position if you lack certainty. Acknowledge your uncertainties and any limitations to your own point of view. As behavioral economist Julia Dhar explains in her TED Talk “How to Disagree Productively and Find Common Ground,” it can be helpful to precommit to the possibility that you may be wrong before engaging in a debate.
  2. “Emphasize agreement” – Identify a concrete part of the other person’s argument with which you agree. For example, two politicians can start a debate by agreeing that democracy is valuable before exploring ways to move toward a more democratic society.
  3. “Acknowledge the opposing perspective” – When you endeavor to understand another person’s perspective, you may start replacing any binary black-and-white assumptions you’ve previously held with a more nuanced point of view.
  4. “Reframing to the positive” – Even if you disagree with your opponent at the end of the debate, gaining a deeper understanding of the alternate perspective is still a positive outcome.

About the Podcast

Research psychologist Angela Duckworth is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. She’s also the co-founder of Character Lab, a nonprofit that aims to help children thrive by advancing scientific insights. Mike Maughan, a tech and sports executive, co-founded the 5 for the Fight foundation, which raises funds for cancer research.

Nina Norman is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. She has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Nina has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. She is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Nina lives in London, England with her husband and two children. You can contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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