Disagreements make us all feel uncomfortable.  Even when we only “sense” that someone may disagree with us, we feel irritation and anxiety.  This discomfort can be particularly strong when the matter on which we meet the disagreement is important to us, especially when we have invested in developing our own opinion about it and we have collected strong evidence that makes us feel to “be in the right”.

We might be more open and tolerant when someone disagrees with us about how to best bake a pie if we are not interested in baking; but if we take pride in our bakery skills, or have invested in specific bakery training, we may easily take the disagreement as an attack to the very foundation of our competence.

Likewise, we might be more open to inputs on a project when it has just been assigned to us, but much less open once we have worked for months to set up the perfect roadmap.

And yet, we all know that the best bakers and the best project managers are those who continue to learn from external inputs and insights.  Great culinary achievements have emerged from going out of the known path and experimenting with ideas that may come even from the most inexperienced amateur cook.  Likewise, even the best roadmap can fail if we have ignored the resistance of any individual contributor who, albeit not an expert in the field, has a unique insight that can strengthen the plan and help bring everybody on board.

Unfortunately, when we go into a defensive mode, we stop listening with really open mind and we are consequently less influential. We actually loose the very respect that we try to protect.

There are three classic mistakes that we all tend to make when faced with the uncomfortable situation of meeting a disagreement:

Mistake #1:  We make it personal and get off-track.  The biggest risk of getting defensive in that we loose sight of the issue on the table and waste energy on completely irrelevant parts of the discussion.

In a famous Asterix comic book (Asterix and the Roman Agent), a well known troublemaker is sent by Caesar to break down the single-minded resistance of the Gaulish tribe; with great flare the troublemaker makes simple remarks that ignite the defensive reaction of everyone; he thus succeeds in getting them to loose sight of the common goal (making common front against the Romans). To demonstrate his abilities,  he even provokes Caesar himself, who quickly recognises how easy it is to fall into the defensive trap and thus miss the point.



=> How to overcome Mistake #1 in thee simple steps:


Mistake #2: We forget to use our curiosity and rely too much on rationality: when we hear a different opinion that challenges our conviction, the temptation is to talk more than to listen; to bury the other side under the weight of our rational power (better data, higher authority, more alliances, broader knowledge, etc.)  What happens to our natural curiosity to dig, explore and expand our perspective?

=> How to overcome Mistake #2:


Mistake #3: We try to change others; this is the main pitfall of traditional “conflict management” training, which is often focused on tactics directed towards managing others, and might make us less authentic or even “manipulative”.  More productive approaches (from “Crucial Conversations” to the Arbinger training) are based on a “Change starts with me” mode

=> How to overcome Mistake #3:


By consciously applying these steps we can increase our confidence and effectiveness in redirecting disagreements to feed a constructive and engaging open dialogued private escalation to non-constructive confrontations or conflicts.


Join us this November 2015 in Zurich, Milan or Eindhoven for an interactive workshop on how to build confidence in handling disagreements with the C.L.E.A.R. Method

Laura Lozza is co-founder and CEO of GROOA, a European Partnership of Coaching Consultants, which specialises in Dealing with Change, Disagreements and Diversity. A former P&G and NorskHydro/Yara executive, an IMD graduate and a professional certified coach, Laura has also authored the ebook “The 7 Qualities of Brilliant Executive Coaching” (free download at http://bookboon.com/en/the-7-qualities-of-brilliant-executive-coaching-ebook)                                                            Website: www.grooa.com