6 ways to disagree respectfully

What a world it would be if we all agreed on absolutely everything. But, as you already know, that’s just not reality.

We all have our own thoughts, opinions, and values — which means disagreements can be pretty common, especially in the workplace.

However, there’s a big difference between just disagreeing and disagreeing respectfully. The first will likely cause hurt feelings and only add fuel to an already tense fire. But, the second? That approach can lead to new ideas and a much more productive discussion.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to get so wrapped up in your own beliefs that all common courtesy goes straight out the window. So, as a friendly reminder, here are six key tips for disagreeing with someone — respectfully, of course.

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1. Focus on Facts

A strong argument is one that uses facts over opinion. But, that can be difficult to remember when you’re in the middle of a disagreement.

However, a respectful — not to mention compelling — disagreement is one that prioritizes logic over your emotions about the situation. So, don’t forget to place your emphasis on the reasoning and information supporting your disagreement.

Not only will that make you much more convincing, but it’ll also make it clear that this isn’t personal.

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2. Don’t Get Personal

Speaking of getting personal, it’s something you want to avoid at all costs when disagreeing with someone — particularly in a professional setting.

Obviously, that means you shouldn’t put down the other person or attack his or her ideas and beliefs. That’s not at all helpful or productive.

Instead, focus on illustrating why you feel the way you do. Remember, your goal is to effectively present your ideas — not to just poke holes in the other person’s.

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3. Recognize the Good

Yes, you’re disagreeing with this person. But, rarely is a suggestion so bad that you can’t find a single nugget of wisdom hidden in there somewhere.

Before launching right in with your argument, it’s best if you can preface it with something that you like about that person’s original suggestion — and then use that as a launching point for your own idea.

For example, something like, “I definitely think you’re on the right track in saying that we need to improve our customer response time. But, what if we did it this way instead?” shares your idea in a way that’s friendly and collaborative — and not at all accusatory.

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4. Remember to Listen

There’s a trap that’s all too easy to fall into when you find yourself in the middle of a disagreement: Rather than actively listening, you’re just sitting there waiting for your chance to respond.

Unfortunately, conversations where you’re completely tuning the other person out are never productive. So, remember to actually listen to the points your conversational partner is presenting. You might be surprised — you could end up finding an even better solution that way.

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5. Use “I” Statements

Which one of the following statements sounds more harsh and critical?

“You always come up with these big ideas so close to the deadline that you only make things harder for everybody.”

“I see where you’re coming from, but I’m concerned we might be getting too close to the deadline for major changes.”

Chances are, the first one made you recoil just a little bit. This example is an adequate representation of why it’s best to use “I” statements when disagreeing with someone. It’s just another subtle way to illustrate that your disagreement isn’t a personal attack.

No, effectively disagreeing isn’t all about sugarcoating what you’re trying to say. But, making even this small effort to soften your language can make a big difference in how your message is received.

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6. Know When to Move On

That cliché catchphrase “agree to disagree” is oft-repeated for a reason: It can be a handy sentiment to lean on when you need it.

Perhaps one of the most important pieces of respectfully disagreeing with someone is knowing when you need to just call it quits and move on.

No, it’s not always easy to swallow your pride and walk away — particularly when you feel strongly about your side. But, sometimes it’s the best thing you can do.

Disagreements are inevitable. But, there’s definitely a wrong way and a right way to present your own arguments.

Implement these six key tips, and you’ll be able to disagree in a way that’s effective, professional, and always respectful.

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