- Take a deep breath and count to ten to stay calm. Try talking slower and in an even tone to keep the other person calm, too.
- Prioritize logic and facts over emotions. Try to focus on your reasoning and the information supporting your opinion.
- Recap the other person’s point of view to validate the original point, show you truly understand it, and to create a strong foundation for the conversation.
- Highlight and verbalize the good component(s) in the other person’s statement. Find the shimmering gold nugget of knowledge in the disagreement.
- Try to identify a common goal.
- Soften the tone of your language. Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements. This subtle practice can alter how your message is received.
- Avoid using any judgement or words that would offend the other person, such as “naïve,” “hasty,” or “foolish.”
- Reiterate that this is your opinion. Invite them to share their perspective about your opinion. Use phrases like, “Tell me where I’m wrong with this.” Be open to hearing their opinions and remain engaged in the dialogue. Good answers come from asking good questions.
- Actively listen.
- Reflecting: “It sounds to me like…”
- Affirming: Smiling, nodding or brief verbal affirmations like “I see.” and “mm hmm.”
- Encouraging: “And then?”
- Pay attention; withhold judgement; reflect and clarify; summarize and share.
- Remember it’s OK to walk away, to take time to process it and to reconvene later, if everyone agrees to do so.
Disagreements are inevitable. Respectful disagreements can lead to new ideas and productive collaboration. In fact, we often learn much more from those we disagree with than those otherwise.
“Every great idea is really just a spectacular disagreement with some other great idea.”
“Six Key Tips to Respectfully Disagree With Someone,” Kat Boogaard, inc.com, Sept. 29, 2016.
“How to Disagree With Someone More Powerful Than You,” Amy Gallo, hbr.org, March 17, 2016.
“The Dying Art of Disagreement,” The New York Times, Sept. 24, 2017.
“How to Politely Disagree, According to Science,” Michelle Kinder, Jan. 27, 2017.