I Disagree

Are you with me on this?

Last week we talked about authenticity. Based on the number of re-tweets, comments and +1’s generated it was a more popular topic than I expected, because the point of a non-monetized blog (like this) is to write about what’s important, not what’s popular. Net, I was pleasantly surprised by the traction that post received.

Earlier today I was talking with a colleague and we disagreed on a point. It was a nice healthy disagreement – we validated each other’s perspectives, held our own, and in the end neither of us was swayed. We still hold our original positions.

Afterwards, she told me it felt weird to disagree in public on something. Really? I thought, disagreement is a normal and healthy part of adult discourse in the workplace. I know, she said, but I felt weird.

Given that as backdrop let’s discuss how to authentically disagree with others in the modern workplace

  • Its not personal – first and foremost recall that disagreement is simply difference of perspective or interpretation. Normal adult behavior considers ideas – not people – when examining solutions, i.e., its the idea we care about. If your disagreement really is personal – or you allow it to become that way – you’ve lost self-control and you need to get it back. Today’s workplace is filled with well-educated people from many cultures: they are quite capable of considering the same so-called “facts” and reaching divergent conclusions. In fact, this is very healthy: we call it inclusion. Do not minimize its value by allowing disagreement to become personal thus losing sight of the value of a broader perspective.
  • Listen – nothing drives us battier than the coworker (or boss) who opines with their own thoughts before allowing us to completely finish ours. Shut up and let the other person talk: you might learn something. If your personal approach to discussion or meeting dialogue is to cut others off, talk over them, or simply not listen at all, it is a given you will not understand them for you never let them finish. Sometimes we think we disagree with others when the truth is we don’t understand their positions because we never heard them out. Listen up and pipe down.
  • Validate –  there will be times when you are able to keep things impersonal, hear the other person(s) out and still disagree. This happens. What’s important from this point forward is to maintain and enhance the relationship. We can do this by validating the other person, e.g., I see your point, or, I understand how you might see that, etc. The point is that there is seldom a right and wrong answer: the world is not that simple. Many of the workplace discussions we participate in have multiple variables generating exponential answers. Thus, when all else fails and you cannot agree with someone you can validate them and let them know you welcome differences created in the workplace. Validation opens the door to future conversation.

One more thing… There is a significant difference between having disagreements and being disagreeable. Therefore, take care to follow these simple steps to ensure your differences remain professional and theoretical and your relationships remain intact.



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