Have you ever had a conversation with someone and you thought: "What is wrong with them?" I have, and it usually does not help me to communicate better if I linger on the thought. In this episode, I'll offer some thoughts on how to get past that thought and to disagree without being disagreeable.
Additional Leadership Resources
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Hi. This is Guy Harris. Welcome to Talk like a Leader. This week's episode is titled How to Disagree Without Being Disagreeable. Have you ever been in a conversation with a person and thought, Wow, that's dumb? Or maybe. Oh my gosh, they really are stupid. Possibly thought how could they possibly think that? Or maybe you thought if that's what they think.
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I'm not really sure I can trust them. Or any number of other similar thoughts that cast doubt on the person's intelligence or character. Well, if that's ever happened to you, you're not alone. Because I've had those thoughts too. These are thoughts that, frankly, I'm not proud of. I just have to be honest. They do creep into my thinking.
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And if I'm going to find ways, if you're going to find ways to disagree without being disagreeable, we have to sometimes wrestle with these thoughts that creep into our mind. Our thoughts about the intelligence or character of the other person that can get in the way of fruitful and productive conversations. And while the impressions aren't always wrong, they can interfere with the way we engage with the other person.
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They can affect how we interact with them. They can affect our body language, our tone. They can affect the clarity with which we deliver messages and the challenges that as a leader, you're going to be in situations where you disagree with people. You're going to be in conflict. You're going to get pushed back on ideas. This is a thing that is just going to happen, and probably you're going to be working with people who differ with you, not just on how to approach work related discussions or how to approach work related problems.
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They might come to work with vastly different perspectives on a whole host of things that have nothing to do with work and they kind of run under the current in our conversations. And because of these differences in perspective, differences in approach, we can start to inject things in our thinking that hinder our ability to talk like a leader.
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While I agree that the ideal scenario would be that we work in a situation and we're all professional enough to never let these outside work issues get in the way of workplace conversations. The reality is, sometimes they do. And that's the kind of thing we have to learn how to successfully navigate. If we're going to be effective leaders, if we're going to talk like a leader.
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One thing to remember, as my Canadian friend J.J. Bruhn says, his tagline is the retired spy. You might want to look him up. J.J. Baron, the retired spy. There's a great phrase because remember, people are a package deal. So that person who comes to work and has great productive work behaviors might have some outside work or non-work-related thinking or philosophy that you completely disagree with.
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And you're going have to find a way to navigate that successfully. And the workplace and the business in order to make things work. Because this idea of people being a package deal is that people rarely leave 100% of their non-work related perspectives at the door when they come to work. Some of that stuff is an undercurrent, maybe like an undertow, so they can get in the way of effective communication.
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If you're interested in building a team long term, then you're going to need to find a way to navigate past that. Find ways to work together. Even when you disagree on some maybe personally closely held issues so that you can build a productive team where everybody can thrive in the situation. And while I recommend keeping work related discussions cleanly and purely on work related issues and work related topics and work related perspectives, I realize that doesn't always happen.
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Sometimes these outside work political, philosophical, economic viewpoints can hinder our ability to work together and as a result can become a barrier to successfully resolving otherwise work related conflicts or miscommunication issues. Recently I found a website that is the rules of civil conversation dot org. That's the rules of civil conversation dot org. And on that website they list eight principles or eight rules for how to have civil conversations, especially in situations where you're interacting with a person with whom you disagree.
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This episode actually marks the beginning of a series of episodes. I haven't fully mapped those episodes out yet. I don't know exactly how many episodes I'm going to have, but I'd like to explore how the thinking and perspective that creates the eight rules of civil conversation can affect our ability to talk like a leader. I'm not going to delve into political ramifications how these rules affect our conversation in the public sphere, how they affect the way we talk, interact with people on Facebook or Instagram or Reddit or any of these other places where people leave comments.
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I think these rules apply to those situations. That's just not the focus of what I'm going to talk about. I would like to keep the focus specifically on leadership, communication, and how the general rules and ideas and guidelines proposed by the Advisory Committee and the authors, the thinkers that created this rules of civil conversation dot org website. How these general principles affect the way we communicate as leaders.
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And in some respects, I'm getting behind their effort to improve our ability to have civil conversations, even when we disagree. I'm adding my voice to the mix, adding on to some ideas proposed by the people who created the website. The rules of civil conversation dot org. And one of the things I noticed as I was doing some research on this, reading their perspectives, looking at their advisory council, those kind of things.
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Some of the people I know, I've read some of their work. Some of the people I don't know. I could only read their bio. I'm pretty confident that on a personal relationship basis that if we could have a conversation about some closely held issues related to political philosophy, economic philosophy, theological or philosophic perspectives, we probably have differences of opinion.
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Probably we don't 100% align totally across the board and how we think about things. I think we do share the perspective that would like to improve the level of conversation and the conversation skill we bring to the table. When we talk about potentially divisive issues. Now, like I said, I'm keeping this focused specifically on the workplace and specifically on leadership communication.
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I think it actually has broader implications. So you might want to check out that website and see other resources they have related to the rules of civil conversation. Now, interestingly enough, when I look at this and see that we probably don't 100% agree on things. I think that's kind of a good thing because I think it says that even people who disagree can find some area of agreement where they can find a way to work together and look for shared vision, shared values that they can promote together, even though they don't 100% agree.
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Now, the challenge is this. I don't think there is anyone in my life with whom I 100% agree. None of my colleagues, not my family, friends and even my wife. I don't know anyone with whom I 100% agree. In fact, there are areas where I disagree with virtually everyone and still find a way to have productive conversations and healthy relationships.
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So that idea mind, let me in this episode outline what the eight rules of civil conversation are, and then we'll come back later episodes and explore it in a little bit more detail, pick apart just a little bit and see how they apply specifically to leadership conversations. Leadership communication. Okay. The eight rules for Civil Conversation one I will try to reach a shared understanding rather than when the argument and the idea of keeping my objective about clarity of communication and resolving differences or at least finding a way to work together is more important than winning the conversation.
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So I'll try to reach a shared understanding rather than win the argument. Second rule of civil conversation. I will clarify with others to make sure I genuinely understand their perspective. So the idea here is to focus on understanding their perspective, not necessarily on selling mine. And then three, that I will endeavor to avoid committing logical fallacies when I try to support my claims.
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I will endeavor to avoid predictable and normal logical fallacies that can enter into our conversation. I think that deserves more exploration later. But first point is, I want to make sure that I don't introduce logical fallacies to the conversation. And then moving on from logical fallacies, I want to be aware of my own biases. So I'm going to attempt to account for my personal bias in my communication with other people.
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I'm going to try to be reasonable and rational and to construct reasonable, rational arguments and coherent arguments when we discuss things rather than making wild claims or accusations. And I'm prepared to challenge idea of I'm going to refrain from personal or what are known as ad hominem attacks. Do everything I can to avoid attacking the person, even if I disagree with the idea.
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Number seven, I'm going to look for the principle of charity. I'm going to attempt to apply the principle of charity which basically says, I'm going to look for the most positive, most benevolent, most helpful interpretation of what they say. It's kind of like the idea of talk about in the past the idea of benign intent. Now I try to apply the principle of charity to my interpretation of what other people say.
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And ultimately, I'm going to commit to remain open to changing my mind. It doesn't mean I will change my mind. I'm open to the idea that new information, new ideas might shift my perspective in some way, and I'm willing to at least entertain and remain open to that idea. Now, like I said, I'm going to dig into this more as we go forward and further episodes of just introducing the idea.
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Now, I took the pledge to commit to the rules of civil conversation. I'd invite you to do the same thing. Go to the website, read the rules. If you agree with it, make a pledge, commit to do it. I think it'll be helpful in your journey to become a more effective leader. There are some additional resources I think will be helpful to you.
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Three books that I recommend. One is called Beyond Reason Using Emotions As You Negotiate. The second is leadership and self-deception. The third is crucial conversations. There are others, and these are three books that have helped me clarify my thinking about how to engage in difficult conversations with people, how to think about leadership, communication. For now, my leave it right here.
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The eight rules of civil conversation and invite you to join me in taking that pledge. One Invite you to look for ways to apply them. I'm going to explore these ideas and future episodes. I'm going to think about how this concept of civil conversation affects our ability to talk like a leader. Because I think if you'll take the pledge to the rules of civil conversation, then we're going to help you in your journey to talk like a leader.
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This has been the Talk like the Leader podcast. You can listen to this show every week wherever you get your podcast. If you haven't. Be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode. I'm Guy Harris and thanks for listening.