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How to disagree well

Apr

23

2009

How to disagree well

In theory, healthy disagreement at work seems like a good idea. We want a variety of opinions and perspectives. So why is it that disagreement so often results in hurt feelings, frustration and inefficiency? We don’t disagree well.

As tempting as it is to “fix” how others disagree, a good leader focuses first on how she can change her own behavior. Here’s how to air your differing views productively:

Disagree courageously and honestly. Saying nothing will be interpreted as agreement. If it’s important, don’t retreat or stay quiet.

Don’t assume you know the other perspective; ask powerful questions. “What is really important to you about this situation? What does a ‘win’ look like for you?”

Sometimes you need to disagree in private and support in public. There are times when you need to state your dissenting views in private and 100% commit to supporting the decision. For example, “I know you are inclined to close the ABC plant, and I’ll support it if that is the organization’s decision. Here ‘s how ABC can be profitable within 6 months.”

Deal with your emotions. When you think of the situation at hand, define your emotional state. What about this situation gets you emotionally charged? Recognize that you have feelings about the issue, understand why and plan for how to manage them.

Involve a third party. Bring in an objective person – someone that both parties trust – to help you communicate more effectively and come to a solution.

If you aren’t experiencing disagreement in your workplace, you should be nervous. Whether it’s group think, lack of creativity or fear that is keeping people quiet, you can be pretty sure differing opinions are out there. Mahatma Gandhi said, “honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.” Humanergy says that no disagreement is often a good sign of trouble.

Have a question or want some input from Humanergy about this topic? Contact us and we’ll get right back to you!

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  1. Peace on earth (or at least your little corner of it) « Humanergy Leadership Blog

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