How To Disagree With Someone (Without Killing The Relationship)

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Disagreeing is something couples, co-parents and families have in common.

Teams share a sense of mission and vision. Though scary at times, exploring the “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios with resilience can help teams stay on course, increase safety, and up teamwork.

When we start looking at the negative, it’s easy to become critical and/or feel like we are being attacked. What if there were a way to have discussions about risk ‘negatives ‘without slipping into sensitivity, criticism, and anger?

Well, there is.

When a team embraces the following techniques, they will live fuller, safer, and happier lives as a result.

How to disagree

Principle 1: Never Make It Personal

This is never about who we are.

We are exploring ideas together. I’m working with a couple co-parenting through the pandemic.

In the past, they have gotten jammed upon who is right instead of critiquing and brainstorming the ideas.

By focusing on their concerns and ways to shift the plan so that it meets both concerns about risk (one parent has a high-risk partner) and child engagement in school, they have shifted away from “I want” to what will work.

Neither has surrendered their very valid concerns.

Focus on the idea.

That means to let go of your attachment to your particular solution WITHOUT letting go of the concern itself.

Brainstorm together ways to meet concerns without compromising the concern itself.

Principle 2: Logical Consistency

Use logic and fact to evaluate ideas.

If you feel yourself getting hot under the collar, that is an indicator that you are slipping out of the logic zone and into a defensive posture.

Take a time out until you are cool and go after it once you are chill.

Principle 3: Be Open

Remember, you are looking for a new solution that meets all your concerns.

Be willing to reach for something new and open when it is offered.

Try brainstorming ideas without evaluating them first. No idea is invalid at this stage.

Then evaluate each idea against the concerns.

Principle 4: The “Team” Comes First

You may want to play devil’s advocate.

Make certain that you are not just tearing up other people for your own agenda. The team comes first, before you. You don’t have to surrender your concerns.

Rather you are poking holes in ideas for the sake of those concerns.

Not certain that your partner is putting the team first? Ask them to explain their rationale always using the facts as a backdrop.

Principle 5: Know When To Stop

When you feel like you have covered all the bases, that there are no more options, it’s either time to stop or take a break.

Don’t push through relentlessly, it’s difficult to stay rational when feeling stressed.

Follow these principles in exploring disagreement and/or uncomfortable subjects and you will find a deeper sense of safety.

These principles will reveal new ways to communicate that will build agreement and greater unity in your shared goals.

This piece was adopted from my friend Bruce Eckfeldt’s Psychology Today article on playing devil’s advocate in business. Thank You, Bruce!