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How to Disagree with Someone More Powerful than You

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https://hbr.org/2016/03/how-to-disagree-with-someone-more-powerful-than-you

hbr.org

How to Disagree with Someone More Powerful than You
Your boss proposes a new initiative you think won't work. Your senior colleague outlines a project timeline you think is unrealistic. What do you say when you disagree with someone who has more power than you do? How do you decide whether it's worth speaking up?

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Key Ideas

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Be realistic about the risks

Our natural bias is to start by imagining all the things that will go horribly wrong if we disagree with someone more powerful. Yes, your counterpart might be a little upset at first, but most like...

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Decide whether to wait

You may decide to hold off voicing your opinion if you want to gather your army first. People can contribute experience or information to your thinking — all the things that would make the d...

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Identify a shared goal

Before you share your thoughts, think about what the powerful person cares about. You’re more likely to be heard if you can connect your disagreement to a “higher purpose.” 

State...

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Ask permission to disagree

It’s a smart way to give the powerful person “psychological safety” and control. 

You can say: “ I have reasons to think that won’t work. I’d like to lay out my reasoning. Woul...

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Stay calm

When your body language communicates reluctance or anxiety, it undercuts the message. 

Simply slowing the pace and talking in an even tone helps calm the other person down ...

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Validate the original point

Articulate the other person’s point of view. 

Stating it clearly, possibly even better than your counterpart did, lays a strong foundation for the discussion. You want your counte...

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Don’t make judgments

When you move on to expressing your concerns, watch your language carefully. Avoid any judgment words that might set off your counterpart. Share only facts.

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Stay humble

Emphasize that you’re offering your opinion, not gospel truth. Remind the person that this is your point of view, and then invite critique. This will leave room for dialogue.

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Principles to Remember

Do:

  • Explain that you have a different opinion and ask if you can voice it.
  • Restate the original point of view or decision so it’s clear you understand it.
  • Speak sl...

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Disagreement is healthy

It is essential for success. It’s the hallmark of an engaged and involved team member. And it opens the way for testing and improving new ideas.

It should also be treated as a chance t...

The art of disagreement

Mastering the art of considerate disagreement means expressing your beliefs without shutting down the discussion or angering the other side.

For this to happen, you have to listen more, be willing to change your perspective on disagreement and learn to better your arguments.

Ed Catmull

Ed Catmull

“You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.”

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Paul Graham's disagreement hierarchy

  • DH0. Name-calling: the lowest level of argument.
  • DH1. Ad hominem: attackung the person rather than the point they are making.
  • DH2...

Challenges To Listening

  • We have many things screaming for our attention every minute of the day and we often trick ourselves into believing they’re more important than a conversation unfolding right in front o...

The Importance Of Proper Listening

With proper listening you’ll have a crystal clear understanding of the conversation and demonstrate to speakers that you’re invested in what they have to say.

Being a good listener is one of the most potent things you can do to increase your influence and likeability. It is also one of the top skills employers seek in potential and current employees, and it’s correlated with perceived ability to lead.

How To Be A Better Listener

  1. Push other activities from your mind, and be present in the discussion. This tells the other person that you’re ready for the conversation.
  2. Keep a neutral expression that simply says, “I’m listening.” We tend to physically react to what we hear and it disrupts our ability to listen and the other person’s ability to be heard. 
  3. Offer uninterrupted speaking time. Well-intended or not, interruptions makes effective communication impossible. 
  4. Repeat back succinctly and ask validating questions to make sure you heard the speaker correctly.