In your opinion, what? Do you agree? Do you disagree? Can you listen well to other people’s points of view? Look around your office. Is there a polite but lively environment in which the give and take of your colleagues’ opinions can occur without rancor (for the most part)?
Disagreements will always occur in the workplace. It’s how they’re handled that matter. Yes, it’s awkward and sure, disagreements don’t always bring out the best in people, but differences of opinion can bring about much needed change and help a company move beyond comfortable ruts. It doesn’t hurt to start out by demonstrating your respect for another person’s point of view and right to express that viewpoint. Validating someone is essential, especially if you foresee a rather lengthy discussion.
That let’s your “opponent” know that the playing field is, at least at the beginning, relatively level. It’s not a bad idea either to offer some praise along the way unless of course it comes off as shallow and insincere. Arguing with a colleague can get dicey, though, if you’re friends as well. But that also means that you owe this person your respect, so in some ways, it is probably easier to engage is some healthy disagreements.
But don’t be fooled. Conflict can combust like a fire that suddenly becomes uncontrollable. Before your discussion begins consider the objections that might arise and be sure you have some idea as to how you will address those. Get sideswiped during a disagreement can feel bad. No one wants to be put into a vulnerable position. One way to avoid the ugly kind of conflict (name calling, people leaving the room, that kind of thing) is to explain to your co-worker why you disagree with his or her point of view. Try to focus your disagreement on a task, system, or program. That will take the sting out of what can be interpreted as very personal. The less you can attach your disagreement to personalities the better.
What if the disagreement you have is with your boss? I’m not going to tell you anything you don’t know as in BE CAREFUL THERE, but I will say you’d better have your facts straight and be ready to anticipate your boss’s objections. Doing this may not help you get your way, but it will demonstrate your preparedness and confirm for your boss that you had a sound foundation for your point of view.
Next time: more about picking and fighting your battles in the workplace.