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Embrace Different Opinions in Meetings: How to Agree to Disagree

In today’s world, more often than not, you will end up working with people from different backgrounds, traditions and beliefs. Your boss tells you to embrace all those differences and to work according to core values such as ‘acceptance’ or ‘diversity’. However, it’s sometimes easier said than done. Learn our tips on how to agree to disagree, and embrace different opinions in meetings.

85 percent of employees deal with conflict on some level

You can drop the daydreams of a workplace where no arguments take place. Whether you work for a big multinational corporation or for a cool startup with pool tables, you will encounter disagreements in meetings. The question is, how do you manage the situation?

Managing people is not always easy. To be managed is not easy either. When you don’t know how to phrase a differing opinion, you can feel frustrated. When you don’t know how to support your team in disagreements, the situation can develop into a conflict. Honestly, you can use your time better than losing it in arguments. If you improve your mediating skills and embrace different opinions in meetings, your work-life improves a little bit more.

Company Culture Supports Disagreements in Meetings

Diversity in itself is a core strength that will enable us to write better software and build better products – Edward Kim, Cofounder of Gusto

There’s not enough emphasis that we can put on company culture. The culture of the company should allow you to constructively debate and to learn to embrace different opinions. Bringing up new views and ideas should be supported by the company strategy, even rewarded. This is how some companies have been able to navigate through difficult times or crisis in the past decade. Disagreements are not a personal attack, they are just another point of view emerging from our work experience, our history, and from who we are.

A company culture that nurtures different opinions tends to have satisfied employees. It’s quite simple. You know your opinion is valued, ta-daa you also value your work more. When meetings feel honest and everyone’s opinions are addressed, you feel like your work is fulfilling and you are taken seriously.

Why Is It so Hard to Have Disagreements  in Meetings

The key is to understand what disagreement makes you feel. Hearing different opinions can make many of us uncomfortable and stressed. However, you can turn disagreements in meetings into something positive and constructive, do you know how? In fact, you should congratulate yourself if you have disagreements in meetings! Meetings are a better place to align and to communicate than for example an email.

We are all different. Some people do their best to avoid disagreements in meetings, the others dive straight into them. Are you able to tell whether you avoid conflicts or face them straight ahead? What about your colleagues? Learning more about your coworkers’ personalities can help to manage them and planning ahead.

In the end, disagreements in meetings are fruitful. You only need to learn to flip the sides and use disagreements as a tool to achieve more. When managed well, disagreements can make you learn more about your colleagues and to understand them better. While different opinions can make you uncomfortable, if you know how to debate in a civil manner, nothing bad is likely to happen.

Tips on How to Embrace All Opinions in the Next Meeting:

1. Try to imagine a company where everyone is exactly the same: dresses the same, believes in the same things, agrees on everything. What kind of a work environment would that be? One that has given up on progress most likely, as contradiction often bears fruit to innovation. Disagreeing with coworkers enables new and fresh perspectives. When we address what we think and respect what others have to say, we are able to amplify our own horizons and grow.

2. Remember that meetings should be the arena for teams to exchange views, to discuss the next steps, to make an action plan, and to possibly change the current path. If you always agree with your boss, why exactly did they employ you? Take the opportunity and say what you think, even if it’s not what the others are saying.

3. However, remember to stay civil! Arguments get heated at times but remember to remain professional. Don’t lose your temper, and always speak from your own experience and feeling.

4. It might be a great idea to organise a conflict resolution workshop for the team. A workshop can lead to improved debating skills, better listening and more output.

5. If you want to make a point, present the facts. If you feel your direction is good, bring all you have to the discussion: your past experiences, your knowledge, your successes or failure stories and get some data to back it all up.

6. Learn to listen, really. Have you ever been in a discussion with your colleague, where an hour later you realize, that you were approaching the issue from different perspectives, but that the end goal was the same? How silly, right? So next time, first listen carefully. There are different ways of saying things with the same destination.

7. The common goal of a meeting is to bring the business forward. That is what you should achieve, both on an individual and on a group level. It might sometimes mean that you need to compromise at some level on your personal views: they might come in handy at the next meeting!

8. Lastly, don’t forget empathy. Do you get so lost in our own world and your own experiences, that you completely misunderstand the others? Try to understand where the other one is coming from, and try to learn their perspective.

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