Meet Derek and Suzanne. Both work for a large convention center. Derek is the Food and Beverage Director and Suzanne is the Director of Sales. Unfortunately, they don’t like each other much and often disagree.
Suzanne feels that Derek doesn’t take her seriously. She often needs his pricing input when a potential client wants something out of the ordinary. He is slow to respond to her questions, causing her to occasionally lose deals. She thinks he prices things too high sometimes, which also causes her to lose deals.
Derek thinks Suzanne is too willing to make promises to prospective clients just to land the deal. Then he is stuck trying to fulfill those promises. He can’t just pull prices out of the sky — he has labor and materials costs to consider and must watch his department’s budget carefully to avoid cost overruns.
Unfortunately, work scenarios like this and disagreements with people in our personal lives are all too common in our hectic, stressful lives. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.
However, the way we handle disagreements makes a big difference in the outcome. To avoid having a minor difference of opinion turn into a major disagreement, you can follow these tips.
Eagerness to share your side often overshadows how the other person chooses to express themselves. If you jump in right away, your response may be off base and unjustified. Now the other person may feel frustrated or angry.
There’s a really good reason why we have two ears and one mouth. You should spend double the time listening as you do talking!
Summarize your understanding of what the other person is saying before voicing your opinion.
Using our situation above, if Derek listened carefully to Suzanne, he might hear her saying she needs his help to make her proposals more appealing. If she were to do the same, she might understand that Derek doesn’t want to over promise and under deliver — and has to avoid cost overruns, which ultimately benefits the client and her reputation in the long run.
When you listen, amazing things begin to happen. One habit of highly successful people is to “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” In many situations, you are most likely to resolve a disagreement when you invest some energy into understanding someone else’s position.
Ask questions such as “Why do you feel that way” or “How did you reach that conclusion?”
You send a powerful message when you unselfishly respect the other person’s concerns. Differences shouldn’t lead to alienation and separation. Rather, use those differences to expand your understanding of the individual.
Sometimes, no matter how closely you listen or how much you stretch to understand someone else’s opinion, you simply cannot agree on a particular point. Simply say, “I can see that you feel strongly about this and so do I. Let’s not let this stand in the way of coming to agreements in other areas about this issue.”
The key here is you can still make progress despite a point of contention.
No, you really don’t need to argue over what brand of ketchup to buy or point out that your colleague’s facts are a tiny bit off on something insignificant. Don’t waste your energy battling over every little thing — save it for the situations when your values are truly being challenged.
This is probably the most important tip of all. Occasionally you may have to ask yourself, “Do I want to be right, or kind?” Choosing ‘kind’ does not mean you are conceding and rolling belly up in defeat — it means you value the relationship more than you value always having to feel like you’re right.
And there are going to be times when you think you’re right, when later it turns out you weren’t! I’m sure others have either thought or said to you, “I told you so.” Words of wisdom from a former president and world ambassador:
“Unless both sides win, no agreement can be permanent.” Jimmy Carter
We’ve talked about strategic partnerships in previous posts. Always remember this — the relationships in your life are more important than anything — and must be protected.