This is a leadership skill that is a must for influencing others.  Leaders who can disagree with the ideas of other people without making them feel like they are being alienated are ones that gain allies and attract people to them.

Here are a few basic tenets we need to keep in mind as we approach ideas that we disagree with. When people volunteer an idea, they have taken a risk to share that idea.  We need to recognize that risk and honor it. We honor it by not “blowing it out of the water.” You may not think it is rational, but the way they are seeing things seems rational to them.  Try to understand the model from their perspective not just yours.  Seek clarity in understanding their model.

Certainty about your position is the fastest way to kill a conversation. It communicates, “I am better than you are.” Demonstrate some room for negotiation in your response to their idea. Don’t get trapped in Binary Thinking. – black and white, yes or no, right and wrong.

Often the best solutions are a combination of several ideas.  You need to be open to different solutions that solve the problem. Overall, the goal is moving the business forward while protecting each other’s dignity.  Now that we have discussed a few generalities about raising objectives, let’s turn to a model that you can use to actually do it.

  1. Acknowledge what you are hearing from them (clarify the model they are proposing.)
  2. Let them know what parts of their model you agree with (acknowledge that the model as a whole has merit.)
  3. Raise concerns about the parts of the model, which seem problematic from your perspective.
  4. Ask them if they know how to meld the two models or suggest your own way to work the models together.
  5. If you notice defensiveness reassure the person you don’t think the entire idea is problematic and that you want to work towards a solution.

Example:

“So Jan, what I hear you saying is that we should pick Wile E. Coyote and the Acme company as a technology partner. I think that Acme is a cutting edge company and has a lot to offer us as a technology partner. However, I have some concerns with Wile E. Coyote working with us.  He tends to be a bit erratic in his approach, and I do not trust his ability to interface with other prospects without being off-putting.  Is there a way we can work with Acme without working with Wile E. Coyote or controlling his time with possible prospects?”

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