How to respectfully disagree – A Quick 3-Step Method for better Communication
Don’t you sometimes just want to shout at someone and tell them straight in the face how flawed their work project, their attitude and their beliefs are? And yours…so much better?
I know how you feel.
Having strong opinions is part of being human, it defines who we are, our identity. And it’s important that we have them.
And a disagreement is just that: having a different opinion and point of view. And goodness knows we’re hearing a lot of different opinions these days.
So, wouldn’t it be great if we could disagree better? In a way that was more productive, more helpful and didn’t damage the relationship?
Here’s a 3-step formula I’ve developed with clients over the years that has shown some good results. I’d like to share it with you, because I believe it can help you be more assertive, at the same time, respectful, in situations where you feel the need to disagree.
In order to disagree, you MUST listen. Oh, it’s hard, especially when your emotions are running high. But if you don’t listen, you won’t be able to execute steps 2 or 3.
Listening prepares the ground for courage and vulnerability. What does listening sound like? Silence (and deep breathing!).
Reflecting back demonstrates you’ve been listening and that you are considering the merit of your conversation partner’s point of view.
Here’s what it can sound like: “I get why things were done this way in the past…”; “I understand why you’d feel strongly about this project…”; “I can see why you would think that the vaccine is unsafe…”;
By reflecting back, you stand a greater chance of having your own point validated.
“AND AT THE SAME TIME”
This is where you now propose your argument thanks to these 5 little words.
“AND AT THE SAME TIME” serves as a pivot between what the other person just said and your point of view. You are using these 5 letters to put forward your thoughts assertively, without sounding as dismissive or antagonistic as if you said the word “but.”
What can that sound like If we put it all together?
“I understand your concerns about this change, and at the same time I’d like to offer a different way of looking at things.”; “And at the same time, I’d like to put forward an alternative.”; “ And at the same time, I don’t think this is a good idea. Let me explain why.”
Remember, it’s ok to disagree. Actually, it’s necessary if we want to move forward. We can’t always please everyone. It’s not realistic, and it is imperative that we be true to ourselves and our opinions. And that we learn to articulate them in a way that could propel both parties towards a common goal.
Different opinions and viewpoints can elicit strong emotions and anxiety. When we begin to let go of the fear, we can listen and realize that somewhere along the lines, there is a common goal.
And if there is no common goal, then we just have to…agree to disagree. At least the intention was there!