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How to Disagree with Someone More Powerful than You

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 likely you are not going to get fired or make a lifelong enemy. 

Consider the risks of not speaking up first, then realistically weigh those against the potential consequences of taking action.

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The art of disagreement

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

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

Ray Dalio
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“I’ve seen people who agree on the major issues waste hours arguing over details. It’s more important to do the big things well than the small perfectly.”
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  • DH0. Name-calling: the lowest level of argument.
  • DH1. Ad hominem: attackung the person rather than the point they are making.
  • DH2...
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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.