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How to disagree with a colleague without being hostile Part - 1

How do you handle disagreements with colleagues in your workplace? Are there easy and amicable solutions to workplace conflicts? Let's learn a few tactics that experts suggest help resolve office arguments and tension.

Conflicts at the workplace are commonplace. Especially, when you are partnering with a co-worker, on a project, things between you will not always be harmonious. There will be conflicts and differences of opinion. Your ideas will not match and this will lead to frustration and hostility. That's the reality.

And the situation can get really uncomfortable and awkward. Often when colleagues disagree on something, they tend to take it personally and that affects their working relationship and creates animosity.

But, what if you can tutor yourself to disagree respectfully? Can you work out the differences and come to a mutual agreement? Can you move forward with what you're assigned to do? Can you?

Well, I would say yes! It can be done, with a little bit of tact. But, first things first; it's nice to disagree on matters; I think it acts as fodder for the brain – and can lead to brainstorming sessions that give birth to better plans, designs, concepts and ideas. We just need to set our egos aside. Disagreements when properly channelized can increase productivity and of course better your relationship as a team.

Easier said than done? Not really, if you apply the right moves. The next time you find yourself at loggerheads with a colleague, on work-related issues, use the below-mentioned techniques to skillfully handle the dispute.

Get offline

It is tempting to take the discussion online and communicate through lengthy, passive-aggressive emails, clarifying your stand. You think this is the best way to handle the matter. However, this action of yours will only result in an exchange of emails without an outcome.

When there is a disagreement, the best way forward, is to clear the air, not through emails, for that sometimes, doesn't work. Instead, set up a meeting and discuss the issue across the table. If that is not a viable option try video conferencing or discussing the issue over the phone, instead.

Advantages of speaking

There are certain advantages attached to speaking to the individual, in person. It is more personal, you can study their body language and hear the tone of their voice. Watching and listening to them speak can help clear rigid notions that could otherwise form because of the lack of communication or in this case, miscommunication.

Things communicated through emails can often come across as snide and sharply critical when in actuality, you or the other person put your views down as an explanation. There is also this tendency to read between the lines and take offense, because of what we perceive it to be.

While on the other hand when we talk, we assess the situation from a different perspective. We don't just hear words, we catch the tenor in the voice and observe the body language. All this can have a different impact on us.

Your interactions matter

Another advantage of making this a one on one is that it serves as a reminder that you are interacting with a person; and this should presumably make it easier for you to work things out and find a solution, together, rather than make it a battle.

When drafting emails, it is also easy to become insensitive to the other person's feelings. We think it fine to use aggressive language because it's just an email. However, it can cause a great deal of damage. All of this can be avoided when you talk in person because then you do not want to come across as rude and obnoxious and make a conscious effort for maintaining civility.

Speak less & listen more

It is considered normal to get worked up and become animated when you're trying to assert yourself and make your point. And, it is easy to throw caution to the wind and keep rambling on and on, not allowing the other person to have their say.

There is this notion that many of us believe in, that speaking over others and speaking louder, makes us right. We think we can dominate a discussion if we do all of this.

But, here is the cold, hard fact – doing so does not make your case stronger. There is no decree that says that whoever speaks first or speaks the loudest and the longest, is right. As a matter of fact, the more you engage in such behavior the more likely you are to make enemies at work.

Instead, of talking, aim to listen. It does not matter if the other person is not doing the same. Just let them have their say and be attentive to what they are saying. You'll gain their confidence. However, if you keep interrupting them and objecting to everything they say, the discussion will get aggressive – with sides trying to prove who is right.

Hear them out, because trust me, you will find an opportunity to speak too. And when that time comes, they are more likely to hear what you have to say, giving your words the same attention and respect as you did to theirs. If they don't, you can remind them that you heard them out without interrupting and it's now your turn to speak, and you expect them to give you the same courtesy.

Interrupt when essential

That does not mean that you need to sit through their talk without retorting. It is fine to politely interrupt their speech if you hear something that you do not agree with/to/on or need a clarification for. Interject civilly and make your point or ask your question. While it keeps the discussion going, it also lets them know that you are listening to them, while giving you an occasion to get a word in edgeways.

Listen well

Do you recognize the pattern being suggested? If you do not listen well, the discussions and differences can go awry.

I am making this a standalone point because to 'listen' does not imply that you patiently wait for your turn to speak. It is important that you listen really attentively rather than planning your strategies, even as the other person is speaking.

Let me simplify this by breaking it down for you.
  • Telephonic conversations can be one-sided. As you hear the person speak make note of key points that come to your mind, as you hear them speak. You can pick up on those points and address them when you respond. Always have a notepad and pen in hand, when making or receiving important calls, so you can quickly jot down points. This allows you to immediately focus back on the conversation. It is a simple enough trick, which can be easily mastered
  • When the conversation is in person, try the 'centring' technique, where you concentrate just on the 'here and now'. Go into meetings with a clear mind, setting aside all differences, and focusing only on the project at hand. No negative thoughts – concentrate and keep the attention where it needs to be. If you want a constructive meeting, it is best that you leave all the baggage behind
  • Practising these actions can set you up for a victory. Often new ideas sprout when you are experiencing something new. In this case, something that the person says in conversation might trigger a thought for a new plan of action – a chance you would miss if you concentrate on what you need to say, giving listening to a miss. You can build a stronger argument and be a winner

Have you experienced situations where you had to deal with friction between you and your colleagues? How did you resolve the situation? Leave your experience in the comment section.

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

Follow Juana or read 609 articles authored by Juana

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