When You Disagree, Do It With Class


Right off the bat I hope you will agree with me that disagreements are inevitable, and having a view on something that is not shared by everyone else is going to happen. When you find yourself disagreeing with someone else, remember that how you handle the situation is almost as important as the outcome of the disagreement itself.

Now when you disagree, it may be where it’s only between yourself and one other person. They have a view, and you have a view. Sometimes the disagreement can be resolved by looking into facts, and gathering evidence to support one view or the other. So in the case of you believing the photocopy machine is working fine and someone else thinks it isn’t, get up and together attempt to photocopy something. When it either works or doesn’t, issue resolved.

Sometimes too, you might find yourself holding onto a view that is in the minority. Now you still might be right, but your opinion or view until proven is not shared by most of those around you. If there is a way to come to conclusive proof one way or another, that evidence can quickly get a group moving again instead of holding a debate. So if you think it’s going to rain tomorrow and spoil the company picnic, but most other people think it should still go ahead because skies at the moment are sunny, you could check the forecast and make a decision. You’ve gathered informed opinions of others based on atmospheric data, and can make an educated decision.

Sometimes however, there is conflicting evidence. So it could be that in one part of the country some trends go one way, and in another part of the country, the same trends are not happening. And as we are daily in positions to converse with people from around the globe, we are often dealing with people whose experiences to date are different from ours. In other words, what we have experienced as fact and beyond debate is not a shared experience. People in other areas have had different experiences than us, their data is different, and therefore the views they hold are opposed to our own.

You may also experience this on a micro level, where you sit around a table with people from other departments, who have different priorities, and have their own agendas. When what they want to accomplish or get out of a meeting doesn’t fit with what the rest of those assembled want, disagreements can emerge.

What generally happens in these situations is that some people immediately start to dig in. They get entrenched in their positions, and refuse to budge from their point of view, closing themselves off from the arguments of others, and are unwilling to consider views other than their own. If you are alert, you can recognize these people because they typically start counter-arguing while others are still talking. They’ve stopped listening whatsoever, and are already forming their next arguments sometimes in an attempt to bully others into compliance. The group decision is paramount to them and not the relationships of those involved.

Some people dont’ do well with disagreements at all. They’d rather give in and go with a view they don’t believe in if it means avoiding conflict and salvaging relationships with others. The danger here is that they don’t always share their reservations or viewpoints, and those are often the very views that the group can benefit from because otherwise they are holding back information the group might need to make the best decision.

When you find yourself in disagreement, first ask yourself how important the issue at hand is for you personally. So if the entire work group wants to order in Chinese and you’d rather have Mexican, it may be wise just to go along and order in Chinese, unless getting both is an option.

But when the stakes are higher, you may be less willing to ‘give in’ and go with the group, such as in the case of cuts in staffing needing to be made and your department being suggested as the place to start. In such a case you may find yourself more inclined to defend. It is integral however to listen to others points of view and the arguments they make and then with all the information, hold true to your position, revise your opinion as need be etc.

The key thing when experiencing disagreement is to do it with class. Listen to others, and make sure that you give them the opportunity to be heard and to express themselves. Not only will you perhaps get new data yourself, but it gives others the belief that they have been heard – and how things work out in the end isn’t always as important as making sure people feel heard and validated. This validation is especially true if people are to leave and actually implement directives resulting from what was discussed and agreed on by the majority.

One of the worst things you could do is appear close-minded; not willing to even entertain viewpoints other than your own, and impose yourself on others.

Respect for other people, other people’s points of view, and the realities in other departments, businesses or parts of the world is what we should all strive for; but that’s just my opinion!

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