Adapted from Bernard Rosen
People may disagree for basically two reasons--either they differ
in information or they differ in values.
- In the first case, the resolution of the disagreement will
occur when both parties possess the same information--perhaps
one discovers s/he was mistaken, perhaps the other realizes that
there was additional information of which s/he was previously
- In the second case, resolution of the disagreement will be
more difficult, since it is based not on the "facts,"
but on the meaning of those facts. Yet resolving
this second type of disagreement is particularly important
in pluralistic democracy.
There is often no way to resolve differences in values, except
to tolerate each other's differences. BUT it
is not necessary to assume from the outset that values differences
are insoluble. Bernard Rosen has proposed a 5-step process for
exploring differences in values:
- Describe the values issue in question--describe the situation
in terms that reflect the disagreement rather than hide it.
- Ask everyone (pro, con, undecided) to present reasons for
each opposing side.
- List these reasons in the form of "if" (antecedents)
"then" (consequents) conditional statements.
- Obtain agreement on the terms of the if/then statements.
- Discuss factual disagreements about items in the antecedent
When people disagree about the meaning of an issue, it may be
because they are making different assumptions about how one thing
leads to another. If they discuss those assumptions, they may
find that the disagreement was based on the differences in their
assumptions. These differences can then be tested (turning what
first appeared to be a question of values into a question of facts--does
lowering industrial property taxes directly result in higher employment?).
In more formal language: In those cases where values differences
arise from disagreement about the factual antecents, clarifying
the conditional statements can lead to resolution of the factual
For each of the following scenarios, negotiate the value differences
- A regional planner is preparing a fair share housing plan
for the communities in a several-county region. Knowing that the
idea of every community taking its fair share of low and moderate
income housing will be tough to get accepted by the COG-type regional
commission, s/he puts into the plan several strong recommendations
which will generate very strong opposition, but which s/he feels
are expendable and might be traded off for support from some of
the commissioners for the central aspects of the fair share plan.
- A staff planner for a regional planning agency is fairly certain
that the agency's director purposely left out certain findings
from a draft of a wetlands preservation study. The findings were
objectively documented and presented by the staff planner, but
the agency director felt it presented a point of view that the
regional planning commission does not support. The staff planner
feels these findings should not be kept from the public and, without
authorization, gives them to an environmental group which is strongly
in favor of a wetlands preservation program.
© 1997 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 15 January 1997