What this looks like:
Seeks to resolve conflict versus winning them and focuses on maintaining and strengthening relationships with those involved
Works well with others to tactfully resolve disagreements and strives to reach consensus before escalating to a third party (if necessary)
Maintains composure under pressure and stress, and diffuses high-tension situations comfortably
Recognizes differences in other’s behavioral and communication styles and adapts accordingly
Lesson the blow with careful word usage. When you use words that directly portray disagreement, the other person will automatically feel slight tension e.g., I disagree, you’re wrong, that’s not right, etc. You’ll want to avoid this as much as possible and use more positive words to create an environment of resolution and understanding and not friction.
Try this: Avoid using words that generalize or label people because people will become defensive e.g., horrible presentation, lazy person, dumb idea, etc. Instead, identify the specific behavior or notion that caused you to think those generalizations e.g., unable to answer questions about data during the presentation, showed up late to the past 5 meetings, the idea didn’t take into account the employees who would be affected, etc.
Try this: Disagree with the idea and not the person e.g., Avoid saying: I disagree with you. Instead, try saying: I’m wondering if we can think about this option a little more before making a decision.
Try this: Start your response with what you agree and why, then provide your alternative solution. When you start with a positive, the other person is more likely to feel that you’re their ally because you at least agreed on some point of their idea. If you tell them that you disagree off the bat, they may feel you’re against them and put a guard up e.g., I agree with you that we need to look into redesigning the UX because customers have been giving us feedback about it. I’m not sure about the idea of getting Sera involved—maybe we can think of others.
Try this: Avoid shutting people down even if their idea appears infeasible on the surface; instead, pose questions to get clarification and a better understanding. People want to be heard and feel like they contributed to the effort e.g., I’m wondering if we’re able to execute your idea within our given resources. What are your thoughts? OR I don’t quite understand the reason for the redesign, could you clarify the thought process behind that? OR Hmm, that’s interesting. I’m interested to know how you came up with that.
Know how to respond when someone disagrees. When conflict comes at a surprise, we they tend to react in unfavorable ways and may need time to process the information. Here are simple tactics you can use to respond to others’ reaction to conflict:
Try this: Respond in a calm, slower, lower-pitched tone of voice and do not feel pressured to fill the void. The pauses in between communication naturally gives people time to think before they speak.
Try this: Request to reconvene another day e.g., “This is probably a lot of information for all of us to absorb at this time. How about we take a few days to think about it and we can regroup about this on Friday?” When we receive upsetting news, we tend to think of the worst scenario and blow it out of proportion. Sometimes we just need our support system (such as our spouse, friend, mom, etc.) to bounce feelings and thoughts onto to help us gain our composure and think rationally.
Learn from the best.
Try this: Observe how people resolve conflicts in meetings and identify someone who you admire because of their tact conflict resolution skills. Commend the person for their skill and ask them for advice on how to improve resolving disagreements.
Resources for more inspiration
Harvard Business Review: How to Handle a Disagreement on Your Team by Jeanne Brett and Stephen Goldberg
Mediate: 13 Tools for Resolving Conflict in the Workplace, With Customers and in Life by Lee Jay Berman
The Digital Project Manager: Resolve Conflicts in the Workplace With These 12 Techniques by Jayna Fey
Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott
FYI For Your Improvement by Michael Lombardo & Robert Eichinger - Chapter 17: Decision Quality
FYI For Your Improvement by Michael Lombardo & Robert Eichinger - Chapter 51: Problem Solving
The Podcast.fm: Non-Violent Communication (44m 15s)
TED Talk: Dare to Disagree by Margaret Heffernan (12m 49s)
TED Talk: How to Disagree Productively and Find Common Ground by Julia Dhar (14 m 57s)
TED Talk: Non Violent Communication and Self Awareness by Maria Engels (10m 58s)
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