Home Topics Entrepreneurship Nine tips for politely disagreeing with a coworker (and maintaining a positive...

Nine tips for politely disagreeing with a coworker (and maintaining a positive working relationship)

From time to time disagreements arise, regardless of how well a team works together. However, conflict should not lead to broken relationships or resentments. It is important for professionals to know how to prevent a situation from escalating and to get their point across without becoming rude or arrogant in their words and actions.

While resolving disagreements positively can take a little more work, the end result is a happier relationship and an overall better job. Below, nine members of the Young Entrepreneur Council examine the best strategies for dealing with disagreements in the office and how these methods can fuel the conversation.

Members of the Young Entrepreneur Council give tips on how to politely disagree with an employee.

Photos courtesy of each member.

1. Make them feel seen and heard

You will at some point come into a disagreement with a coworker, and that is only part of the human experience. However, when communicating these differences of opinion with another person, it is important that they feel seen and heard. In most cases, a disagreement can remain a friendly conversation if you simply confirm the other person’s point of view. This shows that you respect their perspective even though you disagree with it. It will also be easier for them to understand your point of view when they know that you have heard them and that you have listened from every angle. – Stephanie Wells, impressive shapes

2. Try to be impersonal with facts

It is possible to convey your disagreement with your partner without ruffling feathers. You need to learn to express your feelings well and also focus on facts rather than making personal comments. For example, if you disagree on which supplier to choose and your partner is invested in choosing a particular supplier, acknowledge their feelings. But don’t back off your opinions either. Saying things like, “I am uncomfortable with …” or “If we look at these numbers …” removes any accusatory tone in your communication. With practice, you can make disagreements impersonal and focus on what is best for the entire company. – Syed Balkhi, WP beginner

3. Avoid absolute statements

If you want to come across amicably, your best bet is to qualify everything you say. This affirms that what you are arguing for is only a matter of perspective. This way, you create space for your colleagues to change their minds. Presenting what you are saying as absolute fact will alienate your colleague, who is likely to become defensive and push back. So don’t say things like, “This is not right. This is what we should be doing.” Instead, try to qualify your argument with “I understand your point, but this is how I see it …”. Presenting your point of view this way will minimize the likelihood of your colleague going defensive and increase the likelihood of them getting to your side. – Tyler Gallagher, Regal Assets

4. Approach from a different point of view

Looking at the situation from a different angle is one way to politely disagree with a colleague without offending them. When I disagree with someone on my team, I try to be tactful by asking them in a respectful tone to look at the problem or the circumstances from my point of view. We then evaluate each approach to determine which gives the best result. – Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC

5. Pause and come back to it later

It is helpful to take a break from the conversation and come back to it later. When you’re in the middle of a disagreement, it’s easy to get excited and block the other person’s point of view. It works the other way around. So taking a break after a day or two and revisiting the conversation will help you think more clearly and provide more rational counterpoints. You also have the time to really understand your colleague’s point of view and seek compromises. – Blair Williams, Member Press

6. Make Disagreeing part of the creative process

For every idea that we work on in our company, we define a rule according to which at least three counter-reasons are found why it does not work. Having a culture that constantly plays the devil’s advocate can defuse the occasional disagreement and feel like an organic response as opposed to a clash. We assume that even if something sounds perfect and it’s not easy to find a reason for it, you need to find at least three things that are wrong before moving forward. In most cases, this is more difficult than it sounds, but it is an extremely effective way of generating ideas and solutions to problems while also conveying real clashes that would normally find someone offensive. – Jacob Tanur, click Play Movies

7. Listen to them first without a break

Disagreements turn into disputes when you don’t listen. Even if you disagree with someone, let them speak their mind continuously. By listening, show them that you reject their idea or point of view, not them. Give them the space to articulate their vision, and when they’re done, speak. Interruption is the root of all disputes. It’s disrespectful. – Asim Rais Siddiqui, Tekrevol

8. Assume innocence

One way to politely disagree with someone on a work matter is to assume innocence. In other words, don’t think that the person deliberately misled you or quoted incorrect information. When you reach out to co-workers and assume innocence, you will find that figuring out why a disagreement arose is a lot easier. – John Turner, SeedProd LLC

9. Try to find common ground

You can respectfully disagree. Disagreeing shouldn’t be frowned upon. Instead, work on finding common ground. What can you agree on and how can you focus on the agreements rather than the disagreements? For example, if a coworker disagrees with how you handle a customer service incident, find information about that situation that you can agree on, then agree to otherwise disagree. You will likely both agree that customer satisfaction is important. You will also likely agree that you want to represent the company well in any answer you have. The matter that you disagree on shouldn’t steal all of the focus of the conversation. Make sure to remind yourself in many ways that you are on the same page. – Diego Orjuela, cables & sensors


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