A Positive Strategy for Managing Disagreements in the Workplace Erin Posey As long as there are humans in the workplace, there will inevitably be disagreements. How you respond to and manage that conflict can determine how successful you’ll be throughout your career. Whether you’re a front-line employee who needs some guidance for how to handle discourse amongst coworkers or you’re a manager who is tasked with keeping the peace with your team, here are a few tips for turning disagreements into positive, productive conversations. Be aware of your tone. The tone of a person’s voice plays a big role in how they are perceived. In fact, one recent study found that the sound of a speaker’s voice is twice as impactful as the actual message they’re conveying. If you raise your voice during a disagreement, it can easily make an already negative situation even worse. Before you speak, take a step back and get control over your emotions. This will help you level your tone and avoid adding fuel to the fire. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. By focusing on the person you are disagreeing with, your message can be perceived as combative. Shifting the focus back on yourself – how you are feeling and why – can diffuse the situation and open the door for positive resolution. For instance, instead of saying: “You are giving me too much work,” say “I am feeling overwhelmed.” That subtle change can make a world of difference in the direction and outcome of the conversation. Come prepared. The best way to build a case against your opposition is to do your research so you can come prepared. Let’s say a team lead is planning on moving forward with a marketing strategy that you feel isn’t going to produce the kind of results everyone is hoping for. Conducting research and coming armed with something concrete to backup your argument (i.e. what you believe is a better strategy with quantifiable evidence of why) can strengthen your position and improve your odds of swaying the other party. Don’t let it get personal. Most workplace disagreements are strictly professional in nature. The problem is, when someone speaks out against you, it’s easy to feel personally attacked. Furthermore, when disagreements are allowed to escalate and get heated, it can be tempting to resort to “low blows” in order to gain traction. Regardless of the topic at hand, keeping things professional is absolutely critical to reaching a resolution. If you are really feeling attacked or tempted to lash out, step away and reconvene if you have to. Don’t forget body language. Remember, communication isn’t just about the words that are coming out of your mouth. Your body language can also say a lot about what you’re trying to convey. Be mindful of how you are standing and interacting with the other party. Avoid putting up barriers, such as holding up your hand or crossing your arms. Make eye contact and nod to show the other party you’re tuned in. Whether you’re speaking or listening, be aware of your gestures and facial expressions. Be willing to compromise but know your non-negotiables. Resolving a disagreement often requires both parties to give a little and reach a compromise. Try not to head into arguments or debates with the idea that it’s your way or the highway. Instead, be open minded and willing to meet the other party halfway whenever and wherever possible. You should also know, however, what things you’re not willing to negotiate and have a plan for how to address those things if and when they come up. At the end of the day, it’s really just about give and take. Workplace disagreements are par for the course. By knowing how to approach these situations, you’ll be able to manage emotions and facilitate healthy conversations that affect change in a positive, productive way.