Here’s how to collaborate with colleagues who disagree with you
Life’s so much better when surrounded by people who are always in sync with us. Isn’t it? There are no conflicts, and no disagreements ever knock our lungs out. We feel at ease. All of us get along with each other. We start enjoying our happy space where only a ‘yes’ comes for an answer. We begin calling this happy space comfort zone. That is la vie parfait as the French would say or in other words, the perfect life! But what good is it?
Are we supposed to exist in this bubble forever because there’s no threat? Should we patronize and be patronized just to avoid a rift? Should we fear hanging out with those who think differently and keep away from those who can say ‘no’ or contest our ideas? Should we instead be having a conversation with everyone regardless of who agrees and who doesn’t?
We need to get rid of this closed mentality. We must stop believing that everyone should subscribe to our ideas and perceptions. That when someone doesn’t agree with us, they only mean to pull us down. We have got to learn that disagreement can be done without disrespecting someone.
Next time you are collaborating with a colleague, expect and accept the inevitability of disagreements. Get off your comfortable spot. Though it may take time, you have to start somewhere, right?
Here are some ways you can become more open and accepting:
Say no to passive-aggressive email exchange
Emails are not the best way to confront anyone. On the contrary, it can easily upset both parties, and in the end, nothing is accomplished. If your colleague disagrees with you, then stop with email exchanges and have a face-to-face conversation. Stop believing in your tunnel vision and invite them for a chat so that you get to know their thoughts better. Rather than judging their perspective, show an honest appreciation of their point of view. Contest their idea with facts than emotions. Let them challenge you, who knows by the end of it you may end up with a fresh perspective or arrive at a mutually agreed solution.
Be a patient listener
Listen more than you talk. It is easy to interrupt and rubbish your colleague by talking more than is required but it doesn’t take the weight off their argument. Let them speak and feel heard. For someone who is not used to being contested this experience can be jarring. But you have to become comfortable with the idea that it is okay for people to think differently. Listen with an intent to understand them. While you accept this, you should also remember not to disrespect them as you risk coming across as an insecure person. So get rid of this know-it-all persona and encourage people to express their opinions fearlessly.
If you feel they are not listening to you then just raise your hand and say ‘I’d like to say something to what you said about <insert your point of view>’ or ‘how about we discuss <insert facts>. When you reason with reason, it makes a conversation balanced.
Don’t show disrespect
Whether you are in a meeting room with a couple of colleagues or on a one-to-one phone chat, you should watch your tone of voice. Choose your words carefully. Be mindful of how you are gesticulating your responses and reactions. You don’t want to come across as somebody who is aggressive and thinks that they are undefeatable. Acknowledge what your colleague is saying with phrases like ‘I understand where you’re coming from’ or ‘You’re absolutely right’ etc. Or if you differ then be polite and say, ‘I think differently about it’ or ‘We are not quite on the same page because I feel’ instead of saying ‘you’re absolutely wrong and don’t know what you’re saying’ or ‘you lack experience and don’t quite know what’s at stake’.
Don’t be afraid when you see reason in their argument. In a way, you have much to gain than lose. Isn’t it? If they prove why their way is better than yours, then you should applaud them. Appreciate them. It will be juvenile to think you lost a war and then go about making plans to level scores. Instead of wasting your time and breath on such thoughts make room for them on the table for future discussions too. They are the real hustlers who bring fresh ideas to the room and make you look at things differently. Spend as much time brainstorming because they will keep you on your toes, challenge you and make you think outside the box.
If you think the discussion is going nowhere, then you should step back. It is pointless to stay stuck knowing you are unable to find a middle ground. One way out of such a circumstance is that both of you agree to get someone who will stay neutral to both points of views.