When agreeing to disagree, agree

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Whether it is in a business situation or a family setting, so many relationships are impacted and decisions avoided because of a lack of consensus or our inability to reach a unanimous conclusion.

We reach the point of being polite and saying something like, “Let’s just agree to disagree,” and we believe we can move on hoping the other person is under the same impression. But what did we really accomplish?

In some cases we completely avoid making the decision and in that situation both people lose. And in other cases we walk away feeling offended or hurt as our opinions are taken out of context, and before we know it the relationship becomes strained. Again, everyone loses.

You see the issue is that although we use the saying, “let’s just agree to disagree,” we don’t actually stick to it. Instead we walk away and tell others about the disagreement or we try and tell our side of the story to anyone who will listen. And the person we were arguing with is probably doing the very same thing.

So instead of both parties losing and feeling like they didn’t have an opportunity to eat at the restaurant of their choice, or seeing the movie that they had been waiting to see, what if we practiced a different technique? Instead of agreeing to disagree, come up with option B, or a second and third choice.

It works the same way in business. So many times when I am coaching a client, they share a story about a peer or manager, or sometimes even their boss or a customer, where they just could not see eye-to-eye. It created angst and tension and people started operating in silos. My guidance for my client was to be really prepared before going into their next meeting. If people started office politics or jockeying for position, be prepared with options for the items and issues that are important to the greater good of the company or customer.

It is so easy for a meeting to get off track as people champion their own agendas, and if we take the time to be ready with alternative solutions and consider the needs and wants of others we can mitigate the chances of a situation arising where everyone loses. Many authors and experts have used the term, “Seek first to understand and then to be understood,” and when find ourselves in a combative situation or even a minor disagreement we should take the time to think through things from the perspective of others. This is a great first step to defusing those minor disagreements that sometimes escalate to big ugly arguments.

I am simply suggesting that instead of always trying to win for the sake of winning and ending up losing anyway, it is always better to find a way to agree on a solution that best meets everyone’s needs.

And if we take this path, take the high road, and people still want to argue or fight with us, all we can do is walk away knowing that we really did try everything in our power to come to an agreement. And if they decide to become angry with us or revert to talking about us to other people, we should not worry. All we can do is manage what we do and say, we cannot manage or stress about how others act and feel. My good friend Frank Singer reminded me of a quote, “Other people’s opinions of us is none of our business.”

Do you focus on the disagreement or the path to agreement? I would love to hear all about it at gotonorton@gmail.com. When we are prepared with alternative solutions and have a heart and mind focused on the needs of others, it will be a better than good week.

Michael Norton, a resident of Highlands Ranch, is the former president of the Zig Ziglar organization and CEO and founder of www.candogo.com

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