Alignment ≠ Intolerance

Alignment with others based on common goals, values, behaviors and characteristics does not mean that we’re intolerant. Indeed, personal, professional and societal growth demand that we align ourselves with those like us while remaining tolerant of opposing views and beliefs. One of the keys to today’s divisiveness is that too many us have lost sight of this fact.


Success in any endeavor depends heavily on our alignment with others of a similar mindset. It’s exceedingly difficult for me, or any of us, to work effectively to achieve a goal when we don’t agree with that goal…when our values and aspirations are askew if not diametrically opposed to the espoused goal.

Alignment is important when we’re trying to effect a certain result. In my efforts to help kids 8 to 10 become more confident I have to find parents, educators and others involved in child development who also believe that confidence is essential to both success and joyful living.

If a person feels that other factors or approaches are more effective, no alignment exists and we’re unlikely to move forward together. Or if we do, more time and energy will be expended in determining an approach than actually producing results.

That doesn’t mean that I can’t learn from others, which is where tolerance comes in.

Tolerance, not intolerance

Even when alignment doesn’t exist, when it doesn’t make sense for the other person and I to move forward together, we can each learn from the other. “I’ve never seen perfection so there must be a better way,” is my motto. So I am always on the lookout for new perspectives. I also know that typically these insights don’t come from people who share my beliefs. They come from those who have a different perspective on the issue.

In his book, Chaos: Making of a Science, James Gleick said that the math that evolved from chaos theory should have come from the disciplines of math and physics. Instead they came from the behavioral sciences and meteorology. If you look at history, you’ll soon discover that most earth-shaking discoveries come from outside the fields you’d expect.

Steve Jobs, a computer guy, revolutionized the music industry. Herb Kelleher, an attorney who clerked for a New Jersey Supreme Court justice, launched Southwest Airlines with the intent of competing with the car. These are just two of countless examples of how progress is created from outside an industry or discipline.

These advances would not be possible unless someone was willing to entertain ideas that were contrary to conventional wisdom. Once the idea presented itself, then these individuals sought people aligned with their way of thinking…with the goal they desired to achieve. That’s why I said at the beginning that both alignment and tolerance are essential for personal, professional and societal growth.

Women’s vote, same-sex marriage, greater acceptance of members of the LBGTQ community, now the black lives matter movement, are all examples of how tolerance for new ideas and the assemblage of support through alignment have and continue to create societal progress.

Yet, I know that there will always be segments of society that disagree with and resist these changes. And while I have to respect their right to their beliefs, I don’t have to support them. I am being precise in my language when I say “I have to respect their right.” For if I’m unwilling to respect their right, I relinquish my right to expect them to respect mine. It’s the absence of respect for opposing ideas that has created the divisiveness we experience today.

For you

If you’re tired of the nastiness, the lines in the sand mentality that exist today, the adamant belief by many that they are right and those with other beliefs are wrong, you have to be the beacon of both alignment and tolerance. You must first respect and acknowledge the rights of others to opinions and beliefs different from yours. And you have to listen with the intent of learning something that will propel you toward your goals. In doing so, you’ll find common ground on which you and they can build a plan that contains progress for both of you.

In rare instances in which the other party is intransigent, unwilling to acknowledge validity of any of your thoughts or beliefs, who have taken a rigid stand which is impenetrable, who are viewing things from a right/wrong perspective with them being right and you being wrong, you have no choice but to say to them “We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this,” then walk away. Absent tolerance, alignment isn’t possible.

Remain respectful of their right to their beliefs, but shift your focus to finding those who can offer new perspectives and are willing to embrace them as well. Once you’ve found common ground, build on it by seeking others who share your perspective. When the goal is identified, It’s through alignment that achievement is possible.

For our kids

Help the kids in your life understand the distinction between alignment and intolerance. Help them see the benefits they’ll gain in the way from new perspectives when they are tolerant of others’ ideas.

Then help them see that alignment’s proper role is building momentum through like-minded people. Alignment without tolerance leads to rigid, right/wrong mindsets. While tolerance and alignment lead to progress that benefits them personally, professionally and possibly even societally.

I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please leave your comment below.

If you’d like to enjoy great confidence, check out our Confidence Self-Study programs.

If you’d like to enrich the lives of others by teaching them to be more confident, check out our Teaching Confidence Instructor Certification program.

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2 Responses

  1. Bill Prenatt

    Dale, Once again I appreciate your wisdom and clarity on the issues in this blog post. Can you further elaborate on ‘finding common ground’. Do you have a process for how to ‘find common ground’ or is it more of a random act?

    • Dale C Furtwengler

      Bill, I appreciate your comments and insightful questions. Finding common ground is a byproduct of listening to the other person with the intent of finding something that you both agree upon or are close enough to agreement to be able to alter both positions slightly to achieve agreement. Here’s an example.

      The executive director of a non-profit school wanted to be able to tell parents that there wouldn’t be any tuition increase during the current year, which she felt was important given the double-digit increase the previous year.

      The finance chair wanted to improve cash flow by requiring parents to agree to an automatic withdrawal program. The executive director resisted the finance chair’s proposal on the grounds that it imposed additional requirements on parents after a hefty increase. The executive director wanted to emphasize that the administration was using cost cutting to avoid the tuition increase.

      The common ground in this instance was cost cutting. The executive director was already working toward that end. The finance director’s proposal would help reduce costs by eliminating the time that administrative staff would spend creating deposit slips and going to the bank multiple times over several weeks. The solution was to communicate to parents that cost cutting was going to help avoid a tuition increase and that they could help the cost-cutting efforts by agreeing to automatic withdrawals for tuition.

      Bill, I hope this example illustrates common ground is found when we listen with the intent of finding areas of agreement on which to build. Unfortunately, too much ‘listening’ today is with the intent of proving ourselves right and the other person wrong.

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