With all the talk about stakeholder collaboration, employee engagement and positive psychology, etc., you’d think that we’d have learned to eliminate disagreement. We have not!
As Workplace MOJO says, ‘…if you see lots of heads nodding up and down … it ought to be a red flag.’
It may be easier to arrive at better solutions when we disagree. That said…
How we disagree matters.
Some thoughts – guidelines if you like – to be helpful when people see themselves in opposite corners:
Change the language of ‘but’ to ‘and’. It’s a both / and world. Always has been. When they insert the ‘and’ word, people can listen and maybe see a bit of what they have in common.
When someone says, ‘I disagree’, just smile. Then ask them not to challenge the other person, i.e., state why the other person is wrong, but instead ask them to talk about what they would see happening instead.
Similarly, when a team takes a controversial point of view have them briefly explain what they want, not what’s wrong with the other idea.
Get the low-key people who normally roll with the punches to assert themselves with easy requests like, ‘That sounds interesting. Tell me more about how you see that working for me as well as you!’
When someone says something obnoxious, say, ‘You seem very passionate. When this worked for you in the past, what worked for you? What worked for others?’ Then, ‘Suppose you are successful again in the future how will that be useful for the others on the team?’ You don’t have to agree with them, but somewhere in their response there will be some ideas that are useful.
Always ask the dissenter, a) what they like about the other person’s idea, b) what they think the other person might like about their own idea.
If, in response to the above lines of questioning a person says, ‘Nothing’, or ‘I don’t know’, say, ‘Wow! You have strong opinions and a creative mind. There must be something that works!’ Something small.’ Be silent while they think.
Remember, your job is to get some movement towards solutions. Agreement can happen next time!
Finally, rule #1. Agree to disagree, but do something to set wheels of learning in motion. Make a decision. Take some small steps, the riskier the better!