Differences in opinion are a fact of life. And without them to challenge our current lines of thinking, a lot of creative projects wouldn’t reach their full potentials. But the tendency for parties to get defensive and frustrated or to make things personal makes working through opposition easier said than done.
In a lot of ways, opposing viewpoints are a gift; you just need to know how work with them rather than against them. Check out Arden Coaching’s five tips for more productive discussions while working with opposing viewpoints below.
Productive Discussion Tip #1: Don’t Listen for the Sake of Taking Turns
In a discussion where you feel like you’re butting heads with the other person, it’s easy to be so focused on making your next point that you shut out what’s being said. Instead of waiting for your time to shine, your discussions will be more productive if you can turn off this countdown mentality and practice active listening, removing yourself from your own head to hear what your team member really thinks.
This way you can formulate more intelligent responses and reroute the conversation toward an end goal rather than predetermining the outcome from the get-go: That what you have to say is more important.
Productive Discussion Tip #2: Echo Back What You Hear
When you’re responsible for a new assignment, you listen carefully, ask appropriate questions, and repeat what you hear back to the other person to reaffirm that everything’s clear on your end. To work through a discussion where you don’t agree with the other party, you should do the same thing.
Asking questions when you don’t quite understand can open up less hostile dialogue and help you better understand the other person’s motivations for their own stance on the issue. If the person you’re talking to is a little on edge, this should help them let their guard down and be more likely to return this level of respect.
Productive Discussion Tip #3: Watch Your Tone
A shouting match is no way to work through your differences. While raising your voice to be heard might be tempting (especially if the other person is turn-taking instead of actively listening), an elevated tone is more likely to put the other person on the defensive even more than a calmly stated opposing statement.
If you feel yourself getting worked up, take a mental step back and think about the situation itself. Chances are, this isn’t something that warrants raising your voice.
Productive Discussion Tip #4: Look for a Win-Win
If you can establish some common ground with the other person, you’ll be closer to finding a viable solution that might work even better than your viewpoint or the other person’s would on its own. There’s likely something at the root of what you want that the other person wants that’s the same, even though this mutual point may look different from the surface.
It helps to remember that you’re both on the same team and take a moment to make things bigger and reference the company or team goal.
Productive Discussion Tip #5: Know It’s Not Your Way or the Highway
Opposing viewpoints often turn into an issue of right and wrong because neither side is willing to compromise their own idea. Understanding that these views are merely opinions is key. There’s nothing inherent that says you should sell your service package for $500 instead of $300; that’s just your opinion.
You have to be mentally flexible to move past this. Once you can give up the righteousness of your viewpoint, the closer you can be to reaching a solution that works the best for the situation as a collaborative effort.
Discuss, Don’t Distress!
Follow these tips to make more headway in your team conversations and keep things aligned with your goals and timeline.
Interested in learning more about the important role communication skills play in the workplace? Check out Arden’s free guide 5 Questions You May Have About Improving Your Employees’ Interpersonal and Communication Skills.