You’re sitting in that staff meeting and So-and-So is ranting about his latest and brightest idea. Your heart starts to sink and there’s a horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach. You know that despite his insistence, his idea is bad. Like, really and truly awful. So how do you tell him… without embarrassing him in front of all your colleagues?

Disagreeing with someone is a kind of art. It requires a bit of grace, tact, and a lot of care. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and master it. When you’re working with a team, it’s important to voice your opinions and concerns. Your ideas matter – so you just need to practice sharing them in a friendly and supportive way.

A Jelly Triangle How-To Guide

#1: Tone matters.

You can say the nicest thing imaginable but your message won’t be heard that way if you say it with a mean or sarcastic tone. Think about the last time you got a vague text message and you worried that the other person was upset. Not being able to hear their tone messed with you, right? It works the same way in person. Raising your voice or suddenly changing your tone can change the meaning of your message for the other person.

So, the next time you want to disagree with someone, take a second to breathe and become mindful of your tone. Try to soften your voice and pace your speech. Even if you’re no wordsmith, you can your message across if you say what you mean in a nice way.

#2: Use “I” statements.

No one likes being told how they feel or what they’re doing wrong. It instinctively makes us square our shoulders, cross our arms, and get defensive. And then, it’s game over. No matter what gets said after that initial accusation, the conversation doesn’t mean anything and no one gets heard.

The good news is that most “you” statements can be changed into an “I” statement. For example, if you want to say that “you never meet the group’s deadlines,” you could say, “I am worried about everyone’s ability to meet the deadline.” This way, no one gets singled out and put on the spot but you get to share your concerns.

office disagreementsWe all have a natural tendency to use “you” statements because it’s easy, but habits can be broken. Next time you get into an argument, whether at home or work, try to pay attention to what you’re saying and stop yourself if you feel that “you” itch coming on. It might be awkward at first, but it’ll be worth it.

#3: Don’t beat around the bush.

In case it’s not obvious by now, we’ll come right out and say it: disagreeing is hard work. Don’t make it harder on yourself by attempting to sugar-coat things or including things that don’t matter. It’s okay that you don’t agree with everyone! Just don’t waste your time or other people’s time by hinting at what you mean or being vague. Say what you want. No extraneous comments necessary.

#4: You can change your mind later.

You should be confident about what you have to contribute, but it’s okay to retract your ideas if you change your mind. Maybe a conversation ensues and you come to see that you were wrong or some new information comes to light. Whatever happens, you don’t have to keep disagreeing with someone just because you did once. Being flexible is part of mastering the art of disagreeing.

#5: Keep calm and only disagree on the issue at hand.

Even if you never get a handle on the other stuff, you should master this one. Disagreeing is a delicate business and, even for the most level-headed, certain issues can get heated and uncomfortable. And when that temperature rises, it’s easy to slip into attacking the person instead of discussing their ideas.
But no matter what, don’t do it! Once the personal attacks start, it’s only a short period of time before a full-blown argument breaks out and a relationship is ruined. Your constructive feedback is better received if you can stick to the issue and point out what can be done better, and not who is messing up.

Trust Yourself & Believe the Best in Others

Sounds corny, but it’s true. Disagreeing without just plain arguing is hard but you can do it nicely. You just need to have faith in yourself and your opinions (they’re valuable!). You can also choose to believe that the other person has good intentions and won’t get upset with you personally.

Take a leap of faith – you might be pleasantly surprised!

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