In 7 Easy Steps, Learn How to Disagree

Shaun H. Ruff


In 7 Easy Steps, Learn How to Disagree

It’s inevitable that there will be disagreements. Competing interests lead to them. They can also occur when people have different ideas about how to achieve a common goal, even when they are theoretically working toward the same goal. Disagreements can provide great leadership opportunities for great leaders.


A disagreement can be turned into progress by following these 7 steps:


  1. Respect Others: Whenever you disagree with someone, acknowledge their point of view and give them the space to express their views. It can be challenging at times, especially if the other party does not seem to understand what the issue is about. Treating them like idiots can be tempting. People tend to become turned off by this extreme. It is impossible to resolve a disagreement if you treat them as inferior and you as superior.
  2. Being Dignified Toward Others: Ensure the other party understands what’s going on, and don’t assume they haven’t done their homework. When you treat others with dignity, they will respond similarly to you even if they don’t understand. You might want to respond by saying, “I realize you’ve done the work, but I need you to consider X.” Instead of merely telling them they’re wrong, say, “I know you’ve done the work, but I really need you to think about this.”. Once they have thought about it, I will ask for their feedback.” If they need a day or two, that’s fine.
  3. Keep Your Humility in Check: In an attempt to be respectful, people sometimes overcorrect and do not fully express themselves. Your point should be clearly communicated. If you don’t have great power or respect, you may not be able to resolve a conflict by saying “maybe you want to think about this a bit differently”. Getting straight to the point is critical.
  4. Your Opinions Are Valuable, So Let Everyone Know: Almost no one will respond negatively to this if you’re on the same team, whether it’s in business or football. You should listen to them if they have something to say. You shouldn’t focus on winning an argument, but on achieving a common goal.
  5. Ego: Understanding Its Role: Big egos sometimes defend themselves with absurd explanations for bad decisions. Start the conversation with dignity and respect if this is the case. Gratitude is due for the work done. After they make their decision, ask them if it will really help the team reach its shared goal. In this case, you don’t have to tell someone they made a mistake.
  6. Keep A Cool Head When Confronting Someone: Consider setting disagreements aside if time permits, rather than trying to work them out when emotions are high. Whenever something is clearly off base, and everyone recognizes it in a room, but the individual in question doesn’t understand, politely ask, “Pete, how about we take a little bit more time tomorrow?” Should we wait until tomorrow?” You can be more direct with your point in a private conversation, granting them dignity and respect.
  7. Don’t Lose Sight of The Goal: It is important for teams to work towards a common goal. When you’re in the middle of a crisis, don’t lose sight of what it’s all about. You should remain focused on how your decision or discussion will assist you in achieving your goals. Make sure your judgment is not clouded by emotions.

The techniques I’ve described have worked in my experience. In our internal discussions, we discussed how the integration would work. The potential value to the team was repeatedly discussed in an indignant manner. As I pondered these thoughts, I wondered if we could not take advantage of their talent and the work, they have put in to reach this point? Hence, I suggested that we take a closer look at what they’ve done, what we’ve accomplished, and what we need to do moving forward in this area of the business.

By using the techniques above and focusing on the shared goal, we were able to work together to resolve disagreements and figure out the best strategic integration. Others, however, seemed to be protecting their turf rather than accepting that the integration would be beneficial to all involved. I resolved the disagreement by removing their responsibility in that particular area so the overall group could maximize its potential rather than try to resolve a disagreement where they were completely engrossed. It was always the priority to resolve the disagreement, whether it was by negotiation or by force. When it came down to it, we made the deal in order to maximize potential, and that wasn’t going to happen if we couldn’t leverage all of our people. Ultimately, we were able to successfully integrate the companies by managing disagreements and staying focused on our shared goal.


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