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By David GordonDirector, Eaton Vance Advisor Institute

In the wake of a national election, popular opinion seems more divided than ever before. Mask or no mask? Shut down or open up? Tax increases or stimulus? In-person or virtual? Buy or sell? Regardless of the issue, passionate opinions proliferate. Wading into even simple conversations with clients can feel a bit like wandering into a minefield blindfolded.

Is there anything "safe" to say?

Whenever you find yourself in opposition to someone you care about, this cheerful ism (rule of thumb) can help bring you back together:

"Disagreement is what makes a market."

Economists use the term "price discovery" to describe what happens when a willing buyer and a willing seller agree on a price. Price discovery — agreement — can only arise from disagreement. If there are more willing buyers than willing sellers, price increases. An overabundance of willing sellers, conversely, drives price down.

This dynamic determines prices of just about everything — land, gold, stocks, oil, pickles, shoes, services and even (in a sense) the "price" of ideas. Legislation, for example, is more durable when it arises from compromise than when it is purely partisan. Free societies rest on shared values, even when there is strong disagreement about policies and priorities.

No one is likely to agree with every client all the time — that would be an impossible standard. When disagreements inevitably arise, we can turn them into building blocks by reminding clients (and ourselves) that disagreement is exactly what makes a market.

Bottom line: Uniformity of thought is much less interesting — and much less useful — than creative disagreement. We can often reach better, more rewarding outcomes when our starting perspectives differ.