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Disagreement is Good for Business. Agreed?

Kurt BirkenhagenKurt Birkenhagen


I disagree with you.

Chances are those four words made you uncomfortable. Do we have a conflict here? Conflicts make most people uncomfortable. You’re probably uncomfortable now.

This is an article about disagreeing.

What we have here is a communications issue.

You’ve been there. You’re in a meeting thinking, “No… this is all wrong.” You want to speak up, but left the meeting without doing so.

You could of. You should of. But you didn’t. Perhaps you didn’t know how to disagree in a productive way.

Let’s hear from experts on the subject.

Joel Garfinkle, is the author of Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level, and one today’s top executive coaches. Joel writes, “Sharing your opinions during meetings—even if they are contrary to what others might be saying—is necessary for others to see you as part of the conversation.”

He believes you need not attend the meeting at all if you don’t have something to say. “People only become aware of your experience, knowledge capital, and expertise if you share at meetings,” writes Garfinkle.

“Your coworkers lose because they don’t get the benefit of your opinions and knowledge. They miss out on the suggestions and valuable information you could potentially share. Good leaders want people who disagree. They want to be challenged with counter opinions.”

Margaret Heffernan has much to say on the subject. Heffernan, author of The Naked Truth: A Working Woman’s Manifesto about Business and Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at our Peril, is described on Wikipedia as a voice “of critical challenge” who takes little at face value and regularly questions received wisdom.

In an exciting 12-minute presentation on TEDTalks, she makes the case that “thinking partners” aren’t echo chambers—or shouldn’t be.

Margaret claims organizations often refuse to think because the people inside of them are too afraid of conflict. She tells the audience, when we dare to break the silence—when we create conflict—we enable ourselves and the people around us to do their very best thinking. Amen Margaret.

Disagree like a pro.

Here are some helpful tips for making disagreements productive and professional.

Disagree agreeably.

Lincoln Mullen, contributor to the ProfHacker blog offers a series of tips for disagreeing with civility.

Separate the people from the problem.

As I hit on earlier, the goal is to solve the problem and for a disagreement to be a healthy and productive one, all parties involved must remind themselves of this. Take the initiative to do so if the disagreement becomes personal. It shouldn’t be.

In his interesting Prezi presentation, Managing Conflict Productively, by Taylor McCarthy, you’re reminded to separate the people from the problem. Aim to extract the emotions, which are bound to cloud objectivity. Avoid seeing the counter argument as “the enemy.” It’s simply another perspective.

Coming out of a disagreement with a healthy exchange of new ideas relies on negotiation skills and objectivity. Hopefully, some of the tips shared here will make your disagreements good for business.

Feel free to offer your opinions here—even if they differ from ours.

Head of sales and marketing efforts for conferencing and collaboration company - Vast Conference. Enthusiastic client advocate focused on design and product development to deliver simple, easy-to-use conference call and online meeting services.

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