So many people are conflict evasive. While it is a good practice to try not to “stir the pot” unnecessarily or be derisive in general, there is nothing wrong with healthy disagreement.

In fact, sometimes it is what we don’t agree on that drives our team forward. If you disagree or don’t understand something about a new plan or arrangement, make sure you speak up. But, how do we disagree without burning bridges or unnecessarily upsetting the person we are disagreeing with? Here are some tips for healthy disagreement:

Make sure you have taken a moment to evaluate your motivations. Are you disagreeing for healthy and constructive reasons? Take a moment before you react – in fact, take a day to look at the plan or proposal and outline your issues.

Are you understanding the proposal and/or situation? If you find that you are disagreeing because you are not fully understanding it, ask questions. Make sure you clarify before disagreeing.

Are you allowing personal issues to interfere with your cooperation? If you find that you are disagreeing for personal reasons such as not liking the person making the proposal or that it reminds you of another unrelated situation that didn’t go well then, take a step back, recognize your issues and address them for yourself.

BUT if you find that you have full comprehension and no personal hang ups and still have valid reasons to be concerned, then set some time aside to discuss your concerns and openly disagree.

Remember to do so in the same group of people that were at the original presentation. Taking someone “aside” can easily lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations in the group. So if the original discussion had five people involved then your follow up should have those same five people. I realize this can be intimidating for some people, but it is essential to keep all of the lines of communication open. You are a valued member of the team or they would not have included you in the first place. So be sure to show them the same respect in return.

The only exception to this guideline is if it is the group’s supervisor with whom you are disagreeing. If this is the case, have a one-on-one meeting with your supervisor and discuss your concerns and allow him/her to address the team, if they feel it is necessary. But in either case do NOT pull any other member of the team aside to discuss your issues and/or concerns.

Use your “Grandma Language”. This may seem silly but language, both verbal and physical, can determine the resolution of your disagreement as much as the actual content of what you are saying. So think to yourself, is this the kind of behavior that my grandmother (or someone else you respect) would approve of.

You don’t have to use passive language. You are, after all, disagreeing. You don’t need to ask permission to disagree. But, “please”, “thank you” sprinkled into your dialogue can go a long way. Do not use “technicalities”. We all know someone who may say “You are acting like an A## H*!e”, and when you ask them not to name call they will reply something like “(Technically) I didn’t call you one, I just said you were acting like one.” DON’T do this. You are not getting your point across nor are you gaining any respect.

Don’t use cliches or generalizations. No one respects a vague argument or pat cliches. Plus, if you aren’t thinking through what you want to express, you are not making your position clear to anyone – which is exactly the opposite of what you are trying to do.

Keep your body language non-aggressive and strong. Do not enter their personal space.

So many people are conflict evasive. While it is a good practice to try not to “stir the pot” unnecessarily or be derisive in general, there is nothing wrong with healthy disagreement.

In fact, sometimes it is what we don’t agree on that drives our team forward. If you disagree or don’t understand something about a new plan or arrangement, make sure you speak up. But, how do we disagree without burning bridges or unnecessarily upsetting the person we are disagreeing with? Here are some tips for healthy disagreement:

Make sure you have taken a moment to evaluate your motivations. Are you disagreeing for healthy and constructive reasons? Take a moment before you react – in fact, take a day to look at the plan or proposal and outline your issues.

Are you understanding the proposal and/or situation? If you find that you are disagreeing because you are not fully understanding it, ask questions. Make sure you clarify before disagreeing.

Are you allowing personal issues to interfere with your cooperation? If you find that you are disagreeing for personal reasons such as not liking the person making the proposal or that it reminds you of another unrelated situation that didn’t go well then, take a step back, recognize your issues and address them for yourself.

BUT if you find that you have full comprehension and no personal hang ups and still have valid reasons to be concerned, then set some time aside to discuss your concerns and openly disagree.

Remember to do so in the same group of people that were at the original presentation. Taking someone “aside” can easily lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations in the group. So if the original discussion had five people involved then your follow up should have those same five people. I realize this can be intimidating for some people, but it is essential to keep all of the lines of communication open. You are a valued member of the team or they would not have included you in the first place. So be sure to show them the same respect in return.

The only exception to this guideline is if it is the group’s supervisor with whom you are disagreeing. If this is the case, have a one-on-one meeting with your supervisor and discuss your concerns and allow him/her to address the team, if they feel it is necessary. But in either case do NOT pull any other member of the team aside to discuss your issues and/or concerns.

Use your “Grandma Language”. This may seem silly but language, both verbal and physical, can determine the resolution of your disagreement as much as the actual content of what you are saying. So think to yourself, is this the kind of behavior that my grandmother (or someone else you respect) would approve of.

You don’t have to use passive language. You are, after all, disagreeing. You don’t need to ask permission to disagree. But, “please”, “thank you” sprinkled into your dialogue can go a long way. Do not use “technicalities”. We all know someone who may say “You are acting like an A## H*!e”, and when you ask them not to name call they will reply something like “(Technically) I didn’t call you one, I just said you were acting like one.” DON’T do this. You are not getting your point across nor are you gaining any respect.

Don’t use cliches or generalizations. No one respects a vague argument or pat cliches. Plus, if you aren’t thinking through what you want to express, you are not making your position clear to anyone – which is exactly the opposite of what you are trying to do.

Keep your body language non-aggressive and strong. Do not enter their personal space.

Speak clearly, kindly and firmly about your concerns and then Be Quiet. Listen to their responses. Listen. Let’s say that again – it is important that you Listen. Now, this can be tricky for some people. When we discuss listening in a disagreement, this does not mean listening for an “in” or for where they are wrong. It does not mean listening as if they are an opponent you are competing with. Remember, you are on the same team. You both want what’s best for the team. You are just disagreeing about what that is or how to make that happen. So this disagreement should lead to growth. So listen for what they have right. Listen for their strengths. Listen for where you may have misrepresented your concerns so that you can clarify. In other words, listen for opportunities to grow and combine and compromise rather than beat, embarrass or win.

For the benefit of the team, it is important that you express yourself, even when you are feeling conflict-avoidant. A part of working together is a combination of strengths and weaknesses. This ensures that there will be times of disagreement. But when it is expressed honestly and kindly, that disagreement can turn into a growth experience for everyone involved, as well as the team as a whole.

So, feel free, speak up, but do so with nothing but kindness, and well thought-out points and then listen with kindness, openness and with an eye to combining strengths and weaknesses. Even when you start the day with what feels uncomfortably like conflict, through well thought-out, respectful discourse, you can reach an even better plan and end your day with No Worries!

Listen to their responses. Listen. Let’s say that again – it is important that you Listen. Now, this can be tricky for some people. When we discuss listening in a disagreement, this does not mean listening for an “in” or for where they are wrong. It does not mean listening as if they are an opponent you are competing with. Remember, you are on the same team. You both want what’s best for the team. You are just disagreeing about what that is or how to make that happen. So this disagreement should lead to growth. So listen for what they have right. Listen for their strengths. Listen for where you may have misrepresented your concerns so that you can clarify. In other words, listen for opportunities to grow and combine and compromise rather than beat, embarrass or win.

For the benefit of the team, it is important that you express yourself, even when you are feeling conflict-avoidant. A part of working together is a combination of strengths and weaknesses. This ensures that there will be times of disagreement. But when it is expressed honestly and kindly, that disagreement can turn into a growth experience for everyone involved, as well as the team as a whole.

So, feel free, speak up, but do so with nothing but kindness, and well thought-out points and then listen with kindness, openness and with an eye to combining strengths and weaknesses. Even when you start the day with what feels uncomfortably like conflict, through well thought-out, respectful discourse, you can reach an even better plan and end your day with No Worries!

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