The Art of Disagreeing Agreeably

No matter what walk of life you are in, you will inevitably find yourself in a situation where you disagree with someone’s action, direction or point of view. Chances are, if you are not careful this encounter has the potential to leave irrevocable damage to your relationship or end goal.

My co-worker recently spoke about her experience with Dale Carnegie, and I wanted to share mine on our learnings from yesterday’s teachings on how to disagree agreeably.

  1. Facial and Body Language – Without a word spoken, we can already begin communication with our audiences. Crossed arms, sullen expressions, or a tense posture could be interpreted as a defensive position. It’s best to present a neutral expression and posture when starting a disagreement with someone.
  2. Cushion statements – Beginning your counter argument with “you’re wrong” rarely tends to be the best approach. Starting with a statement such as “I understand where you’re coming from” lets the other person feel like they’ve been heard and respected. Also, finishing that statement with “but” should usually be avoided. Otherwise, it just ends up as another way to say “you’re wrong”.
  3. Questions – To really make someone feel like their side has been heard, it’s a good idea to ask questions about their position on the topic matter. A question seeking clarity to better understand their reasoning will go a long way towards a civil discussion.
  4. Examples – Too often we rely heavily on opinion statements when presenting our side of the disagreement. What better way to add credibility to your position is there than to share specific examples or facts of the subject matter. “Tom Brady is the best quarterback ever,” doesn’t hold nearly as much weight as, “Tom Brady is the best quarterback ever. He has won four Super Bowls of the six he’s contested in.”

It should go without saying that a calm demeanor can aid in two people reaching a compromise, but just in case, two people can still have a spirited debate by remaining calm and respecting the other person’s right to their opinion. It doesn’t always have to end in fire and rage if you learn to disagree agreeably. Stay cool out there.

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