The Gloves Are Off
Yikes, there’s a whole lot of disturbing rhetoric in the USA these weeks following the (never-ending) election. It seems whatever norms of civility and appropriateness we had are being shattered every day. It’s not enough that I don’t agree with you; I now consider you an unmentionable #$&%*!

This Got Me Thinking
about how to disagree without demonizing. Even those of us who don’t especially like confrontation may often find ourselves in discussions, meetings and interactions where there are natural differences of opinion or approach. Here are three techniques to try.

Third Party
Have you ever facilitated a meeting where one participant hogs airtime? They may (or may not) be aware of what they’re doing. But the clock is ticking, your agenda is rapidly flying out the window, and other attendees are getting restless. Use the simple phrase: In the interest of time. In other words, it’s not about me, and it’s certainly not about you, Ms. Speaker. It’s that darn demanding clock.

In the interest of time, we’re going to need to move on to the next item.
In the interest of time, we’ll have to bring this discussion to a close. 

Another great Third Party hack is to bring the client, end-user, or greater need into the conversation. This lifts the discussion beyond our personal you vs. me disagreement and reminds us of the ultimate goal.

If we think of this from a client-centric perspective…

Yes, And…
Stolen from the world of theatre improv, the concept here is to accept what someone else says and then expand or build on it. Please note that I didn’t say you have to agree with it. What you’re aiming for is to keep the other speaker from becoming defensive.

I appreciate your perspective here, and I’d like to expand on that by…  

Be careful not to use the word but, which can slip in really easily. It will negate everything you said before the but, which is not going to serve your goal.

Juicy Words
Word choice is super-important when tensions are running high. In difficult conversations, you can extend an invitation by using juicy words with a positive connotation: suggest, offer, propose, recommend, build, expand, extend, consider, advance, grow, develop, create, form, foster, include, encourage, join, enlarge, advance, cultivate, reframe. 

On the other hand, try not to use “hot” trigger words that might set people off or sound accusatory. For me, hearing You always or You never  is not going to lead me in a positive direction. Aim for mild neutrality, while still putting forth your point.

Play With Your Own Variations
of these ideas. I often suggest to clients they make their own Juicy Word list of words and phrases specific to their role or industry. It’s a great feeling to have these choices handy in your back pocket, as you silently count to 10 and try not to get drawn into negativity.

It’s a Harsh World Out There
Let’s respectfully agree to disagree where we can, while still valuing the humanity of all. For those of you celebrating American Thanksgiving this week, may the day be good to you. Thank you for being part of my community. I appreciate you!

Most importantly, may you and your Dear Ones stay healthy and well.

Be the happy recipient of more great tips and techniques, along with intelligent musings on the state of communications, by signing up for Diane Ripstein’s regular NewsNotes right here.