They can be hard to have. We worry about the other person’s reaction. Will they be hurt or angry? We worry about our own reaction. Will we hear something we don’t want to hear? Candid conversations are hard to have…
It is the rare office culture where people regularly and comfortably express their disagreement with each other. But where it exists, it can be a powerful tool for better decision-making and better results. People can move on after decisions are made. On the other hand, agreeing inside the room and disagreeing outside, can result in a toxic environment that paralyses progress. Opposing sides try to undermine each other and staff beneath them have to pick sides.
One technique to encourage open disagreement is clear signaling and focusing on the objective merits of the case. Rather than let your skepticism leak through your rolling eyes and crossed arms, simply say that you don’t agree with the idea and ask the speaker to explain why they do. Actively listen, repeat back to check your understanding, and if you still disagree say so and why. Two things happen here, by saying you disagree, it’s out on the table and your interlocutor isn’t trying to decipher your body language. Secondly, if you have listened well, the other person is more likely to now be able to listen to you. Always nice!
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