I want to share two skills that are simple but take practice. We teach these to our clients to help them accomplish more and have fewer stressful debates with their team, clients—and even family members. If you are seeking more productivity, higher morale and more straightforward interactions, then give these a try.

When someone makes a statement that we disagree with, the most common response is to either ignore what they said or respond with all the reasons we don’t agree. There is a better way. Let me use an example I dealt with last month to illustrate what didn’t go well:

During a particularly hectic time at the company, Dave, the HR manager told John, his supervisor and our client—“We need to meet for 10-15 minutes each morning for the next couple of weeks to discuss the specific hires you’re looking for and possible ways to deal with the two employees who are under-performing.

John retorted, “No way! I can’t meet every day! I just don’t have the time.”

When John asked me for ideas about how to handle it better, I asked what he objected to. He said, “It’s ridiculous to think Dave and I can or need to meet every day.”

I asked what, if anything that Dave said that he had agreed with. He thought for a moment and said, “It makes sense that Dave understands the kind of person and attributes I’m looking for in the new employees.” He concurred that he wanted to have major input on how to document the under-performing employees because they probably would need to be terminated.

Suggestion 1:

If you agree, say so. Acknowledge the places of agreement.
If John wanted to change Dave’s suggestion and also give him credit for suggesting a solution instead of just waiting for a problem to develop, John could have said, “I agree that it would be a good idea for us to talk about the new hires and the documentation process.”

You don’t need to agree with everything said.  Team members will be encouraged to develop critical thinking skills by even partial agreement. So say out loud what you agree with.

Suggestion 2:

If you feel something was left out or needs to be altered, state your agreements first and then add to their thinking—build on their idea.

“I agree that it makes sense for us to meet; we need to talk about the new hires and what to do about the team members who are not performing. Because time is crunched, let’s meet twice next week and then evaluate where we are.”

By finding something to agree with you defuse a lot of the debates that start around people defending their suggestions. If you can limit the defensiveness and the debate time, you keep things moving. You’ll be surprised how often the points you disagreed with get dropped and everybody’s happy.

Close: What you do-and say-matters.  If you want your team to run more smoothly, think for themselves and make good decisions, consider calling or emailing us for ways to tweak your communication. Small changes can make a big difference—with team members, clients, and partners.  And, as one of my clients who keeps building skills – and seeing better results – reminds me, “It just feels better.”