Congruency and Disparity: Confidence Builders?

For some time now I’ve used congruity and disparity to guide me in evaluating what others’ were telling me, little did I know that it was boosting my confidence as well.


My focus on congruency helps me identify whether what a person is saying is indeed what they desire. When people’s words and actions are congruent, I know that they’re serious about getting results. I encourage them and offer suggestions to help them accelerate achievement of their goal.

When their actions contradict their words, when the two are disparate, I know that there are emotions blocking their path to the result they claim to want. Shining a light on this disparity often helps the person realize what they really desire and helps them move forward more quickly and effectively.

What I didn’t realize is that both observations were enhancing my confidence in my ability to assess situations and offer relevant advice.

Confidence builders

As you become more adept at seeing congruency, or its absence (disparity), you too will find that you are able to find solutions more quickly and effectively than ever before. Here are a couple of examples to illustrate this point.

Example 1

The executive director of a not-for-profit organization wanted to communicate that cost-containment efforts prevented the need for a price increase during the coming year. She felt this was especially important since a double-digit increase had been enacted the previous year.

At the same time, the treasurer was pushing for an automatic withdrawal program in which fees would be automatically withdrawn from participants’ bank accounts. The treasurer wanted to alleviate the administrative burdens of invoicing, depositing checks, making collection calls and costly bad debt write-offs.

Both the executive director and the treasurer saw these as disparate goals. An argument ensued. The executive director was adamant that a request for participants’ adoption of the automatic withdrawal program would dilute her message of no price increase.

The treasurer was equally assertive that the automatic withdrawal program was essential because cash flow was becoming a problem and more collection calls were being required to get cash in the door.

The reality was that these were completely congruent goals. The happy announcement of “no price increase” attributable to cost-containment efforts could be combined with a message to participants that they could help further contain costs by signing up to have fees automatically withdrawn from their bank accounts.

This solution, based on seeing congruency, won unanimous board approval as well as the cooperation of participants.

Example 2

A videographer told me that he loved using video as a means of communicating messages. What he cherished most in his work was interviewing business owners to help them clarify their value, what customers appreciated most about the company’s offerings, then delivering that message more effectively.

He also told me he hated the setup time, the editing and post production work. Until he told me this, it seemed that his passions of clarifying and communicating messages effectively were congruent.

If he had not stated his distaste for these pre and post production activities, I would have encouraged him to continue his pursuit of a career as a videographer. With this newfound information, I continued to explore his interests and discovered that his real passion was in creating amazing user experiences.

By seeing the disparity between what was previously seemingly congruent goals, I was able to help him devise a way to pursue his true passion, creating wonderful customer experiences.v

For you

These abilities are not unique to me or anyone else I know. Every one of us possesses the ability to discern congruency and disparity. Many of us simply have not nurtured this ability to the point at which our minds automatically register whether congruency or disparity exists.

As you become more adept at recognizing both congruency and disparity, your mind will automatically know what you need to do to deal with the situation. You’ll know whether to encourage the person or shine a light on the disparity you’re seeing.

As you become more consciously aware of your ability your confidence grows. You no longer worry about whether you can find a solution, you know that the solution will surface…that by simply listening for congruency and disparity the solution will surface and that you’ll have what you need to help the person regardless of whether their words and actions are congruent.

For our kids

When you see kids struggling with whatever is troubling them, help them see the congruency or the disparity that exists in their thinking. Do this by asking questions instead of telling them what you’re seeing. When they discover the solutions on their own, they’re more likely to implement the solution.

Also, the more frequently they discover solutions on their own, the more quickly they’ll adopt the process of listening for congruency and disparity. As they do so, they, like you, will feel their confidence grow.

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2 Responses

  1. Bill Prenatt

    Dale, This concept is right on. It reminds me of the old adage “say one thing and do another”.

    You make the reasoning behind it all much clearer and I like the connection to self confidence. Over time this behavior erodes how people feel about themselves but they tend to not see themselves as a part of the solution.

    Thanks for all that you do to make us better aware of our behaviors and their impact on our lives!

    • Dale Furtwengler

      Bill, I feel fortunate to have discovered a lot about myself over the years. What you, and others, read in these blog posts are some of the lessons learned. Having learned them has brought my great joy and made my life very easy. My goal is simply to share this gift with others. Thank you for being such a thoughtful and generous reader.

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