“Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.” – Mahatma Gandhi.
It’s inevitable that you will disagree with colleagues in the workplace, but there’s a professional way to express your opinion. As a business leader or employee, understanding how to professionally disagree can help maintain trust and respect while allowing everyone to progress positively on their own objectives. This blog provides valuable tips on how you can effectively communicate disagreement in the workplace without causing any hard feelings, resentment or rivalries.
“(Understanding) Perspectives is the ability to understand how a situation appears to another person and how that person is reacting cognitively and emotionally to the situation.” – Gehlbach
Workplace disagreements happen when there are opposing interests, personalities, beliefs, or ideas about a decision, process, action; they are normal and even healthy. Professional disagreements are natural and bound to occur when people with different backgrounds and perspectives work side-by-side. They are healthy and can lead to an exchange of ideas, better decisions, improved solutions or process improvements.
Five Steps: How to Professionally Disagree In the Workplace
l) Remain Calm
“By staying calm, you increase your resistance against any kind of storms.” – Mehmet Muratildan.
Remaining calm when disagreements occur in the workplace allows us to maintain control of our perceptions, reactions, emotions, words, and actions. Additionally, it has the effect of allowing colleagues to stay objective in solving the disagreement.
- Calmness Builds Trust: Remaining calm when disagreements occur is a powerful tool. It facilitates competence and trust while at the same time improving one’s ability to make clear-minded decisions under duress. It also strengthens your position when engaging with other parties.
- Calmness disarms conflict: When disagreements happen, responding with anger assures an argument will ensue. Disputes among colleagues can end up ruining relationships, creating rivalries and resentment. Remaining calm prevents these issues from escalating.
- Calmness leads to better decisions: Losing emotional control can lead to making bad decisions by impairing judgment and disproportionately reacting to a situation.
- Calmness reduces personal & social stress: When a disagreement happens, calmness helps to de-escalate tensions and eliminate feelings of stress in the environment. When the stress level is reduced, people are able to communicate more objectively.
ll) Engage in Active Listening
“To say that a person feels listened to means a lot more than just their ideas get heard. It’s a sign of respect. It makes people feel valued.” – Deborah Tannen.
- Active listening means remaining quiet during a workplace disagreement, observing what verbal and non-verbal messages are being sent or spoken, and then providing the appropriate feedback demonstrating attentiveness to the messages being presented. This form of listening shows mutual understanding and mutual respect.
- Active listening conveys a powerful message to the other person. For instance, by remaining silent, the listener can hear verbal cues that signal how the other person perceives the disagreement and why they think it is important to disagree. Active listening helps you to plan an appropriate non-emotional response.
- Active listening allows a person to gain more insight into the other’s point of view, which can help increase understanding and even create potential solutions that both parties can agree on. Additionally, active listening encourages empathy, allowing the listener to understand how they are impacting the other person’s thoughts and feelings so that they may adjust their words and actions
lll) Show Empathy & Understanding
Understanding our coworkers’ or colleagues’ perspectives during a disagreement helps us consider new ideas, solutions, work styles, and viewpoints. Workplace disagreements can be healthy because they stimulate communication and provide opportunities to learn from our coworkers. Moreover, demonstrating understanding or empathy is a proven way to reduce personal and group bias, judgment and disarm conflict before it escalates.
Empathizing with a coworker when a disagreement occurs has benefits, for example:
- Acknowledging an opposing viewpoint strengthens your opinion or view.
- Demonstrates that you care about your work
- Helps to understand issues or problems from different perspectives
- Assists in reshaping the opinions of coworkers when they are wrong
In sum, when people view workplace disagreements from several perspectives, the chance of finding an optimal solution increases. Further, empathy helps us to better understand the other persons’ perspectives.
lV) Explain Your Position
Expressing your opinion is vital in the workplace for several reasons. For instance, it shows you are engaged, willing to build a consensus, and care about the result. Moreover, it is critical to present your opinion in an assertive, respectful, and collaborative way. The following is a five-step example to guide the way you share your thoughts when workplace disagreements occur:
- Don’t make it personal.
- Stick to the facts.
- Avoid embarrassing the other person.
- Listen to the other point of view.
- Stay calm.
V) Find a Compromise or Collaborate
Compromising: Compromising means that both sides make concessions so that each party can contribute to the outcome. In compromises, disagreeing parties give up some of what they want to move forward—by contrast, collaborating means that both parties get all their needs met.
Collaboration: Collaboration is a working practice whereby individuals work together for a common purpose to achieve business benefits. Collaboration enables individuals to work together to achieve a common business purpose.
Applying Compromise & Collaboration in the Workplace
Collaboration and compromise are used at work to facilitate a more synergetic workplace that emphasizes teamwork. These concepts can be applied to many work-related situations increasing organizational harmony, increasing job satisfaction, and reducing conflict. The following is a five-step template to help you respectfully find compromise in the workplace:
- Genuinely listen to the disagreeing person
- Know the importance of the issue in terms of priority
- Understand the consequences of not resolving the issue
- Provides alternatives and proposes a compromise
- Prepare to make sacrifices, and draw a mental line.
Compromising and collaborating are essential tools used to ensure a peaceful work environment. These two concepts are necessary to balance opinions, ensuring that disagreements do not become arguments. Compromise and collaboration leave both parties partially or fully satisfied and can help solve the immediate dispute and establish the building blocks for more constructive workplace relationships.
Phrases to Disarm Disagreements
The following expressions will help to smooth over disagreements:
- I see what you’re saying, however if we do that…
- I understand where you are coming from, however… If you look at it this way…
- There is some truth to what you’re saying, however… Consider this…
- I’m not sure I agree with you on… have you ever considered…
- I have a completely different opinion on that. Try looking at it this way…
- I’m afraid I disagree.
- I don’t see it that way.
- I respectfully disagree.
Tip: try not to use the word “but” when making your point. In some instances, the word “but” may sound dismissive of the other persons’ ideas or opinions.
“The beginning of thought is in disagreement – not only with others but also with ourselves.” – Eric Hoffer.
At some point in time, you will disagree with a colleague, coworker or manager at work. And that’s part of being professional and competent – as long as you know how to express your opinion respectfully. By following the tips we outlined above, you should be able to have open and honest disagreements without sacrificing trust or respect in the workplace. Remember, it’s okay to disagree – make sure you do so respectfully.
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