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Dissenting without offending

#TLDR: How to express your dissent without offending your conversation partner(s)

We all have had those situations where arguments ensued and tempers and/or emotions were high. As Dale Carnegie has said many moons ago"Show respect for other person's opinions. Never say, 'you are wrong'"

Does this mean that you always say yes to whatever others are saying? That you don't have your voice anymore? Not at all!! The trick is in how you express your dissent/opinion without offending the other party. Let's discuss some options.

  1. Always start the conversation with a disarming statement: Nobody likes to be challenged about their #opinion (even if it might be wrong either factually or in your perspective). Especially not in public or a meeting. However, starting your #dialogue with a statement like "I am frequently wrong and I might be wrong in this case as well, but would like you to consider this" or "Your statement on ___ part of the debate is absolutely on the mark, but how about adding/thinking differently/revisiting/reconsidering the part about ___". Such statements make your intent clearer to other parties that you are not entering a battle of opinions but are starting a more open discussion.

  2. Always walk the proverbial mile in another person's shoes: Many times, the argument heats up when one or both parties refuse or fail to consider the other's perspective. It helps a lot if you spend a minute or two thinking about why the other person is opposing your viewpoint before responding. Also, immediately verify if you have understood their viewpoint correctly or not by using statements like"If I may rephrase you, ____" or "If I heard you correctly, ___"

  3. Always remember to be diplomatic: This doesn't mean you have to play #politics, far from it! #Diplomacy is about letting the other person make case for your viewpoint, it is about having the other person speak your point of view. Remember to leave room for your opponent to retract/reshape the argument. You can achieve this by starting to highlight the positives of opposing arguments and thanking them for their focus/time/efforts on this topic. This should be followed by a factual statement about your position (avoid subjective supports like "I feel/I think/I assume") and showing how your statement aligns with what the other party is arguing for. Believe me, this is true for most workplace arguments! 95% of the argumentation scope has common goals (company goals) and norms (company culture). The disagreement is around 5% and is typically on "How" rather than "What". Remember there are multiple paths to the same goal, so be flexible on "How".

Let me be clear that despite this approach, I have found myself in tight spots and where my emotions sped past me. It has also happened that I followed the script all fine, but still ended up with the other party feeling offended. It tells me that though not a perfect approach, the three points stated above have helped me in 90% of such situations.

How has been your experience? What has helped you? What has been your experience with the approach above? We love to read your comments and thoughts. We may even feature your inputs (and you!) in our video series #PeerView!

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