How to Respectfully Disagree

by | May 9, 2024 | Communication, Flexible and Limber, Leadership, Listening

I was in an executive meeting not too long ago and one of the other team members wanted to raise the cost of the company’s biggest product. I was strongly opposed because I thought it was already too expensive and I was concerned that we’d lose sales, or at least customer loyalty. They stood their ground though. They said that the cost of manufacturing the product had increased and to maintain the same level of functionality, we’d need to raise the cost. If not, we’d have to stop supporting some of the product’s features. I heard what they were saying but still disagreed. I thought that the features weren’t necessary to include. They said that people would have to buy other products to supplement those features and it would cost them even more.

We put it to a vote. I lost. But I respected their position and the conversation had been professional and calm. I was satisfied with the transaction. My points were made and I stood up for what I believed was the best position, but I was also able to concede when others disagreed with me.

It’s nearly impossible to work in a team without having some disagreement. The key is not to let it get ugly. I felt very strongly about keeping the cost down. Earlier that week, I had heard complaints from two customers about the cost and one said they were not going to buy the next version because it had become too expensive. I had to check myself to stay calm in the executive meeting and listen to the other’s perspective. I wanted to jump in and tell them about these two customers but I had to stop and give the other executive their turn.

The others in the meeting stayed quiet while we both took turns sharing our perspectives and supporting facts. We stayed focused on the issue. It never got personal. We both agreed that we were trying to do what was best for the company even if we disagreed on what that meant. When the vote took place and the majority voted for raising the price, I was disappointed but I supported the executive team’s decision.

The next time a customer complained to me about the price increase, I gave them the reasons why we decided to do it. I even said that it would cost them less than having to buy other products to supplement lost features if we had kept the price down.

I’m not saying that I am always this calm and accepting of a loss, but it is what I strive for. Sometimes disagreements do get personal and it is hard to stay calm in the moment and bring it back to the issue. It is also hard sometimes not to be defensive. I have learned how to recognize it when I hear myself over jealously justifying my position or arguing about something I don’t even believe just to win. In certain cases when I know I am right, I have to remember that the relationship is more important than the argument and be open to doing things differently for the sake of appeasing the other person.

Not only is it okay to disagree with teammates at times, but it is normal. Sometimes agreement can be reached. Other times one person may win and the other lose. In either case, it is important to handle disagreements among team members respectfully and remain issue-focused to keep the relationships strong.

You’ll probably make better decisions too.