Earlier this month, author Mark Sanborn wrote about the importance of reading dissenting opinions. He reminds us that we can often learn from those that view the world differently than we do. They may also learn from us. Other times, we may simply agree to disagree. However, as Sanborn wrote,
“There are few things more fatal to success than rigidity of thinking.”
For leaders, the pursuit of the dissenting opinion can be critical to sound decision-making. Surrounding ourselves only with people who agree with us means that our decisions may not be properly analyzed. The person who suggests an alternate way of looking at a problem may be the very person who leads us to the most successful outcome.
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We do not want to surround ourselves with “Yes men.” Looking at that person who has the dissenting opinion for a new solution is easier if you view their opinion as a potential asset. This takes insight, courage, and a strong sense of self.
On the other hand, what if I am the person who disagrees? What if I have the dissenting opinion?
As leaders, we set the example for others on how to disagree. Judith E. Glaser provided tips on how to respectfully disagree, without sending the message, “I am right and you are wrong.” Key points in her comments were:
Don’t say “Yes, but…” The word “but” sends the message that whatever came before is wrong. Instead, say “Yes, and…” The word “and” acts as an extender of conversation, inviting dialogue. It acknowledges the opinion of the other person before providing another view.
Don’t say, “respectfully speaking.” That may send the message, “I should respect your position but I don’t, so here’s what I think.” Instead, say, “I understand what you are trying to say…help me with this aspect.”
Glaser encourages us to enter into conversations, even disagreeing dialogue, as partners. Looking at the exchange in that way allows us to give and take with respect, learning from each other.
Sanborn and Glaser both offer us good reminders on the importance of dissent. What has your experience been?
What lesson have you learned from disagreement?