Four ways to disagree … constructively


Date: 9 October 2017

Four ways to disagree … constructivelyDisagreements can destroy working relationships; and yet, if handled constructively, they can actually help individuals and teams work more effectively together.

Here are four ways to disagree constructively:

  1. Provide context. Share your reasons for disagreeing before declaring your position to give people missing information and a context for your position. This can be used as a basis for exploration and deeper understanding. For example, a colleague suggests that Michael McIntyre is one of the UK's top three most talented comedians. Rather than label your disagreement you might say: "You can rate talent in a number of ways, for example: innovation, imagination or storytelling. I don't think McIntyre matches up on all those counts, compared with Eddie Izzard, Ricky Gervais or Al Murray." This allows others to understand the basis for your position and a more fruitful discussion can follow.
  2. Test understanding. This seeks to test an assumption or check out whether a previous contribution has been understood. For example, Manager One says: "Nick has been a consistently high performer across all aspects of his work." Rather than directly disagree, Manager Two might say: "High across all three categories - core work, projects and safety?" His questioning invites all those present to reflect and consider the answer. It drives up the level of clarity, ensuring everyone is on the same page.
  3. Show your feelings. This is an expression of how you feel about what's happening in any given interaction. For example, "I'm feeling uncomfortable that we're focusing on revenue and not safety as well - as opposed to, "I disagree with your idea".
  4. Build on the discussion by extending or developing a proposal made by another person. The practice of "building" is uncommon because it requires us to listen to what's being said. It also demands that we let go of our own sense of rightness. If you disagree with an idea, for example, you can use building to shape the suggestion in a slightly different direction.

Of the four alternatives to disagreeing, building is the most skilful and the one likely to have the most positive impact within the workplace.

By using these techniques you can help ensure that any disagreements are constructive - and not destructive.

Sponsored post. Copyright © 2017 Ally Yates is the author of Utter Confidence: How what you say and do influences your effectiveness in business.