Managing Phrases- Three Ways to Thoughtfully Handle Disagreement

Steve Wyrostek MBA, BA
May 5, 2008 — 3,179 views  
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As managers we’re constantly challenged on how to express ourselves diplomatically. This can be tricky when our thoughts are in conflict with others. How do we express disagreement without alienating colleagues? Learning some simple approaches and some phraseology can improve results in these situations. Wording Disagreements Ben Franklin wrote that we may not want to express ourselves fixed in our present opinion especially if we’re seeking instruction and improvement from others. Responding to a view we disagree with without stating the other person is wrong requires delicate phrasing. Franklin suggested wording such as-  I imagine it to be so…. or If I’m not mistaken…. Other wording might be- I thought I read where…..  or I heard that……. When posing alternatives, instead of saying do it this way or look at it in this manner, consider using the word consider. For example, we might say-  You may want to consider this…. Have you considered looking at this in another way…? Another approach to consider may be… Instead of responding in silence to a view we disagree with, this phrasing can allow us to express a differing view in a palatable way. It also softens differences, gives the other party an out and is reasonable in discourse. Eliminating the word should One of the most useful things I’ve ever learned at a seminar was when the presenter suggested to consider eliminating the word should from our vocabulary. The facilitator said that she felt that the word should and its cousin shouldn’t, were the words that have caused the most grief in the world. I think she’s on to something. Think of how it feels to be told we should do this or we shouldn’t do that. If that makes us feel a little defiant, it’s understandable. Should is a very judgmental word. Again, instead of saying should or shouldn’t, we might say – How do this sound to you….?  What about this....? Have you thought about that…? Another thought might be…. or any number of other softer, less judgmental phrases.  However, It’s very difficult to eliminate should from our vocabulary. We’re so conditioned to assuming our way is the best and maybe even the only way. In fact, we usually can’t understand why everyone doesn’t do everything our way! It’s almost a paradigm shift to eliminate these words from our vocabulary but if we do it, it really can enhance discussions. Seek to understand then to be understood This means that when we’re listening really make sure we understand what’s being said before we react to it. This can be done by asking- Am I hearing you correctly…? This is what I’m hearing you say……Just to clarify, you’re saying…. This can also be difficult. Sometimes we’re thinking of our response while the other person is speaking!  Or worse, we’re on the computer, watching TV or simply not paying attention. To avoid that, we may want to try to stay in the moment. This means total focus on the other’s communication including body language, tone and words. This prevents disagreements that arise from responding prior to fully understanding a message. Thoughtful phrasing helps keep communication pulsing during times of disagreement.  Try it. (Oops, I meant to say- you may want to give it a try!). The results may pleasantly surprise you. Steve Wyrostek MBA, BA President- Gentle Ears, Inc. 541 N. 5th Ave. Des Plaines, IL  60016 847-803-6991 [email protected] www.gentleears.com Member HRMAC, SHRM, ASTD, Association Forum of Chicago, Regular Contributor to the Business Ledger Gentle Ears- Where Listening and Learning Embrace

Steve Wyrostek MBA, BA