I love it when my coaching clients disagree with me. When someone challenges your thinking or suggests a contrary point of view, they are giving you a gift. They are helping you to see things differently and expand your understanding. I am enthusiastic when others point out a flaw in my position or some bias clouding my thinking. It became clear to me many years ago that there is no right or wrong for the vast majority of topics. We simply have opinions. Hopefully, they are thoughtful and well-grounded, but in the end, it is just your opinion. That’s when I stopped trying to defend my answer and except that there are many ways to look at a problem and develop a satisfactory solution. However, I’m not always excited about the way that people disagree with me!
Here are a few ways that usually don’t support constructive criticism:
- Stating an opposing view as absolute fact, yet not having the “facts” to back that up
- Attacking the person, not their ideas
- Interrupting, talking over the other person, dominating the conversation
- Talking down to the other person
- “Correcting” their thinking, telling them what they should think
- Disregarding, denying, or demeaning their point of view
- Refusing to question their own point of view
- Becoming aggressive
A more productive course of action might include:
- Being curious
- Asking lots of questions
- Thanking them for their input
- Asking for clarification
- Asking for data
- Compliment them on their thinking
- Encouraging constructive conflict
- Showing empathy for their feelings
- Pointing out when they have helped you change part of your thinking
- Asking if they have changed anything about their point of view
The goal is to disagree agreeably. Have a robust conversation but always remain respectful. Realize that the other person might have strong feelings about the topic. Stay open to the possibility that you could be wrong. Be a partner, not an opponent. Stay calm, be inquisitive, and model positive behaviors.
At times this can be challenging. The other person may not have the skills or the desire to carry on a mature conversation in the face of disagreement. They might have an overpowering drive to prove that they are “right.” In these instances, determine how important it is to change their mind. When I am in a situation like this, I have a favorite question to ask myself, “Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy?” No need to damage a relationship to prove a minor point.
If you need help communicating effectively, send me a note. I would love to coach you. firstname.lastname@example.org