How to disagree well


You don’t have to agree with what someone says. Or back down either. But if you want to disagree effectively, ‘Don’t raise your voice. Improve your argument’*. Concentrate on the content and be as specific as you can.

1 Don’t let feelings cloud your judgement

Take a step back and think about two things:

• What’s the best way of explaining the weaknesses of their argument as clearly and persuasively as possible

• What’s the best way of doing so without either of you becoming angry, defensive or resentful

In other words, attack the problem, not the person. Look for common ground. If you are open to them being better off too, you are more likely to build trust.

2 Don’t hide behind email

Do it face-to face. Because, when people meet, things happen.

3 Don’t fret. Hire a mediator

If managing the meeting yourself feels daunting, or you don’t feel confident about the prospects of resolving the problem, hire a professional mediator to manage the process and help sort it.

4 Don’t just lead with the facts. Let them talk

Show them you are listening. Acknowledge any emotions and identify the issues. Then dig deeper. Find out what they want, and find out why they want it. Discover what their emotional driver is, and you can create more options.

5 Watch the body language

Look for clues about how they feel and respond accordingly. Remember to watch your body language too.

6 Don’t be combative. Be good-humoured

Apparently, people are six times more likely to get a deal with someone they like. Don’t let them feel they are getting hammered. Better still, where you can, express what you want in terms of what they need.

Finally, don’t let it linger. If it escalates, it will get worse.

* Desmond Tutu. This blog was inspired by a recent article written by Daniel Goleman, author of ‘Emotional Intelligence’, for Korn Ferry.