The truth is that sometimes we just don’t get along. I've also written about Business Etiquette, which I believe is the pre-cursor to successful business relationships. And I shared the idea that treating others as they want to be treated is helpful in having interactions run as smoothly as possible. Yet sometimes, no matter how respectful our intentions, disagreements are going to occur.
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When disagreement occurs, what can you do?
- Put the disagreement into context. Are you making a mountain out of a molehill that will pass over or was this a substantial disagreement? Was it a one-time situation or is it something that will have long-term repercussions? Or is it a relatively small situation, but it’s on top of a series of small occurrences that are adding up to a big deal? Step back and think about the disagreement in association with the entire relationship. Assess what relationship you desire with the other person.
- What is the situation showing you? Adversaries can serve the important function of showing us another point of view. Try to step back and apply some critical thinking that enlarges the discussion. Writing down some of the key points of the difference can be helpful to you in seeing opportunities to collaborate. If you can find common ground, you may gain an ally or at least be able to find a truce by moving forward in the areas of agreement.
- If you didn’t show the best behaviors, acknowledge it. You may need to ask an objective third party if your behavior was a contributing factor or you may know in retrospect that you could have done better. If so, there’s nothing wrong with telling your colleague, “I’m sorry if I came on a little strong about xyz yesterday. I feel really passionately about this subject.” This type of acknowledgement can preserve a relationship by making it clear that the disagreement is not personal. Most people truly appreciate it when someone reaches out and acknowledges that they could have handled something better.
- If they didn’t show the best behavior, decide whether to discuss it. If the subject is important or the fracture in the relationship is damaging to future collaboration, you may decide to broach the subject. Always use “I” statements when giving feedback – saying “you completely cut me off in the meeting and I don’t appreciate it!” won’t usually enable discussion. Instead, you might say something like this: “It’s important to me that we continue to have an open process that considers everyone’s points of views. Then I can support decisions because my point of view was considered. I felt at yesterday’s meeting that in your efforts to manage to keeping the agenda on track that my opinions weren’t fully heard. How can we work together to make sure there’s a balance of staying on time and ensuring opinions are heard?”
- Don’t take things too personally. One of my former managers once told me “if we always agreed, I wouldn’t need you.” Carefully assess where you may be taking disagreements overly personally and make every effort to be more objective. I once had a co-worker where no matter what the circumstances, we rubbed each other the wrong way. Once I acknowledged to myself that it was probably always going to be that way and that I had tried what I could, I made the effort to detach myself emotionally from our discussions. And interestingly, while she would never be one of my favorite co-workers, things began to get better just because I consciously decided I was going to quit wasting time overanalyzing our differences.
What all of these tips have in common is practicing objectivity, first in how you think and then in how you communicate those thoughts. When you practice objectivity, you will experience more effective and enjoyable relationships. It’s not necessary to do it perfectly all the time; just take each situation one at a time and resolving differences will begin to come more naturally to you.
Question: How are you dealing with others?