Don’t make judgments - Deepstash

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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MORE IDEAS FROM 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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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 slowly — talking in an even tone calms you and the other person down.

Don’t:

  • State your opinions as facts; simply express your point of view and be open to dialogue.
  • Use judgment words, such as “hasty,” “foolish,” or “wrong,” that might upset or incite your counterpart.

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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 disagreement stronger or more valid. 

Also, delay the conversation if you’re in a meeting or other public space. Discussing the issue in private will make the powerful person feel less threatened.

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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 it overtly then, contextualizing your statements so that you’re seen not as a disagreeable underling but as a colleague who’s trying to advance a shared goal. 

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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 counterpart to say: "She/He understands."

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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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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 and does the same for you. It also makes you seem confident, even if you aren’t.

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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. Would that be OK?” This gives the person a choice, allowing them to verbally opt in.

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RELATED IDEA

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.

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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. Responding to tone: The lowest form of responding to writing is disagreeing with the author’s tone. 
  • DH3. Contradiction: you offer an opposing case but very little evidence.
  • DH4. Counterargument: a contradiction with evidence and reasoning.
  • DH5. Refutation:  quote someone back to themselves and pick a hole in that quote to expose a flaw.
  • DH6. Refuting the central point: The most powerful form of disagreement.

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  • 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 of us.
  • We have a biological challenge, too: We can listen about three times faster than anyone can talk. That means we have excess capacity in our brain that will wander off and entertain itself unless we take steps to intentionally manage it.

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