Realise that the disagreement may be a good thing – a chance to clear the air, to solve a problem, to move things on and give you the opportunity to correct something that could have had dire consequences.
If you decide to discuss a problem with someone, arrange to hold the meeting in a neutral venue such as a conference room, not in either of your offices. You should prepare yourself thoroughly for the meeting – remember ‘if you fail to prepare you should prepare to fail’. Make brief notes of your key points. Understand the likely opposition and look for ways to diffuse it. The goal is self-respect and hopefully a win–win situation – not necessarily getting your own say or way. Give some thought to what an ideal decision or solution would accomplish. Instead of focusing on the situation as it is, you should be aiming to talk about the situation as you would like it to be. Focus on the future!
Clarify the matter right at the start – ask the question ‘What exactly is the problem?’ You may be able to solve it immediately if both of you come to understand exactly what the situation is. Half of all problems can be cleared up at this point. Take some time to be absolutely clear and really understand about the items under discussion.
To do this, it is best to state what you need directly, whether it’s more information, or help, or more time. Don’t ask a question when you need to make a statement. For example, you should say ‘I need another half an hour to complete that piece of work you want’ rather than ‘Could you please give me another half an hour to finish the piece of work?’
Remember to behave in an ‘adult’ way – remain objective, be confident, don’t exaggerate, treat people with dignity and be tactful. It is important to respect the other person’s feelings and give them a proper chance to talk without being interrupted. No matter how difficult you find it to keep your mouth shut – wait for your turn to speak. If you have to turn down a request, empathise with the person first as it softens the ‘no’: ‘I understand your predicament but unfortunately the answer is still no.’
Be pleasant and agreeable as you talk with the other person. They may not be aware of the impact of their words or actions on you. They may be learning about their impact on you for the first time. In the worst case they may know their impact on you and deny it, or try to explain it away and make excuses. During the discussion, attempt to reach agreement about positive and supportive actions for the future. It will help if you express appreciation, as telling others what you appreciate about them is a positive form of assertiveness.
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Sue France / Photo on Unsplash