Respectful disagreements are extremely helpful and productive.
Arguments are a complete waste of time.
But wait... aren’t they the same thing?
When two people have a respectful disagreement, they both share their differing points of view and both are interested in hearing and understanding the other person’s point of view.
In an argument, each person focuses on telling the other person why they’re right and the other person is wrong.
The main difference between the two is that arguing lacks a focus on listening and understanding the other person.
In an argument, at best each person will wait their turn... to tell the other person why they are wrong.
Waiting for your turn to argue is not the same thing as listening to understand.
“Listening” to the other person to find a better rebuttal is also not the same thing as listening to understand.
Other than in a debate competition or in a court of law, usually attempting to anoint a “winner” in the argument is pointless.
You may win the argument, but you do so by damaging and eroding the relationship. If you repeat this process enough times, you destroy the relationship.
This is why married couples divorce.
This is why employees quit jobs.
This is why clients fire consultants.
When you truly listen to the other person for the sole purpose of understanding them, it opens up many opportunities to find a mutually beneficial resolution.
If the other person proposes a truly stupid idea, don’t say, “That’s stupid!”
Instead, ask, “Help me understand why that’s beneficial to you?”
The key isn’t the “stupid” idea.
The key is to understand why the “stupid” idea makes sense to them.
Every person’s needs are valid and are worth acknowledging (even if you can’t meet them).
Sometimes people express their needs in confusing ways.
Sometimes your spouse demands something outrageous because he or she feels unimportant.
(The outrageous request may not be “reasonable,” but feeling important in a marriage definitely is absolutely reasonable.)
Sometimes your employee procrastinates on a project because he’s too overwhelmed to know where to start.
(Missing a deadline repeatedly is not reasonable, but needing guidance on what to do first is reasonable.)
Sometimes your client doesn’t follow your sound advice because they’re scared of what might happen.
(Not following good advice may not be reasonable, but being scared of uncertainty certainly is.)
When you take the time to understand the other person and why they’re asking for what they want, you learn about their underlying needs and can find multiple ways to meet their needs.
When you simply argue at the surface, you never get that insight.
Healthy disagreement is the basis for great, intimate marriages.
(When your spouse is unhappy, you want to know why so you can meet his or her needs and they can feel understood.)
Healthy disagreement is the basis for landing 6- and 7-figure sales deals.
(When a prospect objects to your proposal, you want to understand why versus tell them they are wrong.)
Healthy disagreement is the basis for getting promoted.
(When your boss objects to promoting you now, you want to understand why so you can figure out how to meet his or her needs sooner, rather than later.)
Healthy disagreement is at the basis of all successful outcomes that involve other people.
PS. I’m debating teaching a class on healthy disagreement. If there’s enough interest on the topic, I’d be happy to teach it. To indicate your interest in a class on this topic, just complete the form below.