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!

How Do You React When You Hold A Different Opinion?

In our daily lives, whether it’s at work, at home or out socially, we are bound to hold different views on daily events than others around us, and I’d suggest that having different views is very healthy. But when you have a different view than someone else, how you react and what you communicate while at work is important for you to understand; especially the impact of your reaction on others.

Now first of all, it depends what you think different about. So if you are discussing the merits of a certain colour of highlighter for your notes, your preference differing from someone else’s is really not all that big an issue. The ramifications just aren’t that significant and therefore once you say you like yellow because of its brightness instead of blue because it’s harder to see the text, you’re pretty much done. But what if you differing opinion is about something much more meaningful with wider ramifications?

It’s always best to slow yourself down when being in a discussion that is leading to some decision, especially if you see that decision having a direct impact on something you care about. Think objectively about the choices you have, consider whether the topic is one you feel is something that you really have to fight for, and see if there is some merit in the views of others before taking an all or nothing position.

Sometimes what happens is that we hold a view of our co-workers and we might see them as idealistic, cowardly, aggressive, lax, emotional, practical etc. This may be based largely on past performance and discussions we’ve had, or having seen them make past decisions that did or didn’t work out. Or on the other hand, we may base our views on feelings, intuition, first impressions etc. which are less reliable. So when at a meeting where some discussion is taking place, it’s vital to separate our personal views of the person from the ideas and opinions that person is expressing. Failing to do this can result in not even listening to the person, but rather jumping to the defense of our own views prematurely.

When you listen to others, not only might you realize that despite past performance, this time somebody actually has a view that has validity, you might save yourself from interrupting the other person and making yourself look poor by shutting the other person down. The result of such behaviour is that someone else’s idea gets more attention, the other person gets sympathy, and you brand yourself as someone who is quick to speak and could benefit from actually taking a moment to think about what has just been said.

When you differ in opinion, it’s always a good idea to vocalize your difference with the opinion but base your rebuttal on facts, experience and quickly move to talking more about the merits in another course of action rather than dwelling too long on the pitfalls of someone elses point of view. Those that play smart in the sandbox also will support the person perhaps in some other idea or point of view that is less divisive from their own view or one in fact they agree entirely with.

Differing views often help groups come to more meaningful conversation. They allow groups the benefit of then having to examine differing views, find merit in each, and then come to a consensus at some point, which is often a merger or combination of two or more viewpoints. The best decisions coming out of groups are often in fact, ones that several people have some input into in order to get group buy-in. Then when the time to talk is over and the time to act begins, more people are on board. The worst thing you could possibly do is strongly voice your differing opinion, refuse to let go of your position, and then go out of your way to sabotage the action plan the group has come up with. This brands you as someone who can’t be a part of any plan that isn’t their own.

The most interesting thing sometimes happens thereafter where what you failed to see in a meeting, when later put into action, becomes something that you then understand, and you realize your opinion while still valid, might have if adopted by the group, led to a less than satisfactory conclusion. In other words, if many others are behind someone else’s ideas and you aren’t, might they see something in it that you yourself fail to see?

We all should be encouraged in my opinion to hold our own views and express them without fear of being shut down and silenced. However, this is largely affected by the situation in which we find ourselves and the subject over which we are together. If a fire alarm goes off at work, it would hardly be proper to gauge everyone’s opinion and discuss whether to evacuate or not. Somethings we just do because that’s the agreed upon procedure and while we might personally think going outside is a waste of time and inconvenient in the rain or cold weather, we do it nonetheless because the consequences of being wrong even once are extreme.

Again, when you differ in opinion from others, back up your view with as much information based on facts and experience. Separate your views of the person you differ with the person themself. And by all means, every now and then give in graciously on some things in order to get a little on things that matter more to you.