Thinking differently is your strength. When it comes to business, prompting discussion or stirring the pot can be beneficial. Although coming to an agreement on matters can become difficult - particularly when colleagues or bosses are involved - progress is a result in difference of opinions. Here is a guide that will allow you to speak your mind, without things getting out of hand.
The most important thing to remember when you find yourself in these situations is that a level of professionalism and respect must maintained to achieve a mutually beneficial conclusion. A constructive disagreement can easily turn into a fiery argument.
Be Aware of Your Tone
Research shows, that the sound of a person’s voice can determine how he or she is perceived. Based on a study conducted on 120 executives’ speeches by Quantified Impressions, the sound of a speaker’s voice matters twice as much as the message. This concept is very important when applying your tone of voice to the content of the disagreement and who you are addressing. It’s much easier to let a conversation spiral downhill with a colleague rather than your boss.
If you’re yelling because humiliating and demeaning people is part of who you are, you’ve got bigger professional issues than you decibel level ... But if raising your voice because you care is part is part of who you are as a person and communicator, your employees should have the courtesy and professionalism to respect that.”
- Michael Schrage, MIT Researcher
Stay mindful of your own voice. In moments of aggravation, stop and access the situation before raising your tone.
Avert from Filler Words and Hesitant Phrases
We all get a little nervous every once in a while; this can show though our choice of words when speaking to others. Words like “um,” “uhh,” and “ah,” display doubt. These filler words become distractions and make listeners lose interest and/or doubt your credibility.
Charles Areni and John Sparks, two researches who set out to prove the influence of these placeholder words, asked 118 undergraduate students to read a transcript of a testimonial about a scanner. There were two versions of this transcript: one included hesitation words and the other did not. The results of the study concluded that it was tough to convince the listener the scanner was worth buying when using hesitant language, even though it was described to be a more efficient, lower priced scanner.
Try to use these filler words as little as possible. Speaking slower gives you more time to process your thoughts and information before speaking, helping you eliminate hesitation. Find your own distraction: have a pen in your hand or a cup of water in front of you to redirect attention.
Do Your Research
Doing your research is important in building any case no matter the opposition. You can’t propose change without knowing the positive and negative influences. Prior to making your proposition, put together an assessment of data including the following details:
- Why you current strategy isn’t working
- What you can do to improve this strategy
- Why (and how) your new proposition would be more effective
- How long it will take to accomplish X, Y, and Z over the course of weeks, quarters, etc.
This strategic preparation will make it difficult for anyone to flaw your proposition. It will also display the intensity you have regarding you disagreement with reason — not that you’re in disagreement just to disagree.
Know Your Non-Negotiables Compromise
More often than not, being in disagreement with someone doesn’t always go smoothly. The Affirmative side is never truly in agreeance with the Negative side. For a disagreement to remain respectful, you must learn how to compromise. The obvious differences are indeed obvious, but relationships in business are more similar to any other relationship we share – even with a significant other. Every relationship has its differences; the goal is to determine which are more important.
Know your non-negotiables — the things there are no chance that you will compromise on. This will be a foot marker in prioritizing what matters versus what you’re willing to compromise on. Everything is give and take.
Stay Away From “You” Statements
“You” statements can easily be perceived as combative during a disagreement. It’s almost as if you’re pointing your finger and playing the blame game. Consider rephrasing your statements like:
“You never update your candidate status!” could become “Could you update your candidate status so I know before I proceed with mine?”
“You always send me the wrong documents in emails.” is more aggressive than “I’m not quite finding what I need in this document, do you mind sending it to me again?”
“You should pay more attention in our meetings.” could take a much less direct route, hinting: “Taking notes always helps me remember what I need to get done or check up on so I don’t forget anything.”
Be Aware of Your Body language
At times body language says more than verbal expressions: you could be saying one thing, but your body language is saying another and could be rubbing people the wrong way. To disagree politely, remain attentive to your opposition – present a small smile while they are talking, raise an eyebrow, nod your head, and avoid putting barriers between you (such as your hand, bag, binder, etc.). These small gestures will earn your respect from peers when it’s your time to speak; you’ve shown that you have been actively listening, not just waiting for them to hush up and get it over with.
Know When to Take a Break
A disagreement is rarely ever solved the first time around. It usually takes back and forth emails, multiple sit-down meetings, and follow-ups. Sometimes including others to come to a comprise is also necessary.
It’s easy for a disagreement to spiral out of control and turn into a heated argument – that’s what you want to avoid. You must know when you take a step back, breathe and regroup before continuing. The Pomodoro Technique is an excellent way to keep discussions to 25 minutes and under. If your meeting happens to go past 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break the regroup.
Never Get Personal
Personal attacks are defense mechanisms and often used as an intimidation tactic. Even in a heated argument, personal “low blows” are never appropriate in a business setting. The conversation must stay focused on the issue at hand, not any personal distractions. Now, if your opposition brings up your personal life, remember that you are not your job and your personal life doesn’t affect how well you get your job done. Avoid the temptation to retaliate and return to the topic at hand.