Five Ways to Professionally Disagree in Business

Most of us strive to be team players, getting along with colleagues and contributing to a harmonious atmosphere at work. That said, there will be times when we disagree with someone else's opinion in the office.
11/18/2015 06:01 pm ET Updated Nov 16, 2016

Most of us strive to be team players, getting along with colleagues and contributing to a harmonious atmosphere at work. That said, there will be times when we disagree with someone else's opinion in the office. While serving on a committee, working on a group project or interacting with others in virtually any capacity, opinions don't always perfectly align. When this occurs, healthy dialogue can be especially productive, helping both parties to learn something new or understand a different perspective before a final decision is made.

It is possible to express a difference of opinion respectfully and positively. Here are five ways to politely disagree:

  1. Keep the emotion out of the discussion. Our views are often based on our personal experience and can be deeply ingrained. When others have ideas that contradict our beliefs, it can feel like a personal attack. Resist the tendency to make it about who's right and who's wrong. Focus on the facts as you listen objectively and explain your thoughts. Patience also falls under this category. Even if the appropriate path seems perfectly obvious, you won't sway others with a disparaging tone.

  • Speak like a diplomat. Use the right language to make your point without putting others on the defensive. There are a variety of polite phrases to convey a contradictory point: "I hear what you are saying. I'd like you to consider..." or "I don't completely understand..." If you agree with part of their argument, use common ground to build consensus: "I agree with you on X, but I think we should research a few alternate ideas for next steps." Avoid starting sentences with the word "you," which is the fastest way to turn the conversation into a personal grudge, especially when it's followed by "always" or "never." As you communicate, use proper body language. Keep your expression pleasant and abstain from rolling your eyes, shaking your head or raising your voice, no matter how great the temptation.
  • Accept that conflict is a vital part of doing business. In a forward-thinking environment, challenges to the status quo are welcomed. Don't back away from broaching important information because it goes against the group consensus. Your boss is not interested in being surrounded by "Yes" people, but thoughtful, open-minded employees who are interested in discussions that will benefit the company and clients.
  • Focus on the outcome. Research the topic from all the angles before taking a firm stand. Avoid getting so attached to winning the argument you lose sight of the objective. Remain composed and refer to long-term goals and the big picture before pressing ahead.
  • Know when to stop. As part of the team, your role is to present the facts you feel need to be considered in the decision-making process. Once your supervisor has made their choice, let the matter drop and turn your energy to supporting the group. Back up whatever direction is selected and do your best to accomplish a successful end result. Maintain your professionalism and earn the respect of those around you as someone with ideas worth listening to.
  • You may also find How to Be a Better Listener helpful. Visit Diane's blog, connect with her here on The Huffington Post, follow her on Pinterest and Instagram and "like" The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook.