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Agree to Disagree Agreeably

We have all heard the expression agree to disagree. While this is very easy to say, it is difficult to practice. It is even more difficult to disagree “agreeably” with respect, candor and kindness. And it is profoundly difficult to practice when the person you disagree with is also being disagreeable (not respectful, attacking, defensive and unpleasant). So what do we do? How can we agree to disagree in an agreeable way?

Here are 4 suggestions to try when you are faced with a situation where you disagree and may need to agree to disagree (not come to consensus) but you still want to maintain the relationship and the partnership.

  1. Acknowledge the differences. Although it is tempting to avoid a difficult conversation and pretend that everyone agrees with everything in order to “keep the peace”, it will never last.  If you avoid talking about the differences, you will also impact the ability for team members to trust one another and the team.  You will never be able to move forward in a positive way unless you take the time to acknowledge the differences.
  2. Respect one another’s differences. We all come with our own perspectives, biases, opinions and ways we work with others. We will also tend to think that we have the “right” opinion and perspective; however, it may be a very different opinion or perspective for someone else on our team or in our coalition. I encourage us to listen to the other person or people and not interrupt. Try to understand where they are coming from and what is important to them.  After listening, be honest, direct and kind as you share your perspective.
  3. Determine if there are any areas of agreement. After discussing your areas of disagreement, find out if there are any areas of the agreement other than agreeing to disagree. Once you have listened carefully to the other person, there is a good possibility that you identify at least one area where you agree.  If so, confirm that with the other person and see if you agree that you agree. ? If not, recognize that you continue to see things differently and decide whether you want to think about it further or if you need to just agree to disagree completely.
  4. Agree on next steps. Regardless of whether you have found areas of agreement, it is important to decide how to move forward.  This may not be done in one conversation. Your immediate next step may involve pausing, thinking and coming together to discuss next steps in a week or two.  If you are part of a team or a coalition, you may decide to go in the direction where you have found agreement.  You may divide into sub-groups or workgroups and focus on different priorities while continuing to communicate with the overall team or coalition. You may also decide that you accomplished great work in the past but that you no longer see mutual benefits in working together as the same team. You can still do this respectfully and graciously.  Every situation is different and it’s important that you keep working to decide on next steps together whether that means moving forward in a different direction altogether where you can agree or dissolving the team or partnership.

So, what about you?  What other ideas do you have on ways we can agree to disagree agreeably?

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Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

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