Four Tips for Disagreeing Agreeably
Disagreements are not only inevitable but a natural dynamic between people. Left unresolved, they can waste time and energy and negatively impact productivity. Many people try to avoid disagreements, yet we can learn so much from those with whom we disagree if we learn how to engage without triggering hot buttons or rushing to defend our point of view.
- Give others the benefit of the doubt. You may disagree strongly about some point, but always ask yourself: What do I know about the individual both in an historical and situational perspective that might justly explain why they act the way they do? What is preventing me from giving him/her the benefit of the doubt? These simple questions can help you open your mind to what’s underneath the other person’s idea, and help you find a resolution.
- Avoid using these words: "but", "however" and "nevertheless". If you acknowledge the other individual’s point of view and follow it what one of these words, you have completely erased the acknowledgement.
- Use empathy to cushion your response. Never attack another person’s idea head-on. If you disagree, acknowledge that you have heard their opinion, and follow it with a empathetic comment. ("I can understand why you are bringing that because of XYZ") With this statement of empathy, you don’t need to agree or disagree, but rather simply demonstrate your understanding for their "side." From this point of commonality, you can then move on to illustrate your own feelings on the subject.
- If interacting by email, consider saving your disagreement until you can interact on the phone or face to face, since tone can be very easily misread. If this is impossible, it’s doubly important to set up your statement with empathy and understanding. Always offer continue the conversation in person to resolve questions.