Now at some time we’ve all been caught out – well hopefully it’s not just me! You receive an email that is just out of order. It has completely missed the mark and has badly misrepresented you and the situation. To top it all off the email is copied to several other people to whom you now feel misrepresented. Your human instinct is to immediately defend yourself, and so you write a reply full of punch.
The moment after you press the send button you begin to think you might have said too much. In fact, the more time that passes the more you begin to think you might have said too much. By reacting defensively, you have now made the situation worse.
Whether it’s a disagreement that starts with a provocative email or a social media comment, flippant remark at the family meal table or in the board room, controversial discussion at the pub or over the garden fence, it’s all too easy to react rather than respond.
Disagreeing well means keeping your cool in the heat of the moment. We disagree badly when we react immediately, emotionally and in an uncontrolled way. Whereas we disagree well when we respond to someone in a considered, reasonable and measured way. Simply pausing and counting to ten, or sleeping on it overnight, can help us respond rather than react.
When I receive one of the emails described earlier, I have learnt through painful mistakes to deliberately choose to keep my cool. I make a deliberate choice to disagree well by responding with a simple, “I don’t agree, please can we speak on the telephone.”
The first thing such a response achieves is to put a clear full stop to any ongoing email exchange, and prevent them from escalating. It also flags up immediately to those people that are copied, that you do not agree. That is normally as much as needs to be said at this point to any other parties who have been drawn in. Finally, it is a genuinely palms up approach that is inviting open conversation and discussion to achieve a resolution.
When you are in a disagreement, consider how you can take the emotional heat out of the situation. We are all emotional beings, however, high emotion can distort our sense of perspective and judgement. Disagreeing well means doing what we can to keep our cool, and helping other people to do the same.