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How to respectfully disagree

It’s probably going to happen every once in a while if you collaborate on projects. You get an email from someone that makes you think “Uh, no way!!”. You totally disagree. And that’s fine! Disagreements can be solved and can lead to better outcomes. Here are some tips to craft a respectful reply that is productive instead of hurtful:

  • Ask questions to find the solutions

People rarely do something without having a reason. If you find out why they did something, you might be able to find a solution that works for you, as well.

  • Criticize the action, not the person

The fact that you disagree on this one thing does not make the other person a bad person. So instead of criticizing them as a whole, (“You’re being stupid!”) criticize the action (“We didn’t agree on a red dragon – it was supposed to be yellow. Now it attracts too much attention.”).

  • Be factual

If you can, cite the facts. For one, this keeps you from sounding emotional and the other person feeling personally attacked, and two, who can argue with facts? You could, however, disagree on the interpretation of said facts, so keep that in mind.

  • Avoid hyperbole

Remember kid’s tantrums? (“I’m never going to win at Mario Kart now!”) We love to use hyperbole to make our point. This works amazingly in fiction writing, but can come across as personal in a disagreement and blow it out of proportion. Instead, try to remain nuanced and accurate.

  • Have someone you trust proofread the email back

Before you fire off your hotly-worded response, take a breather and ask someone you trust (preferably with more experience with these kinds of situations) to proofread your email. Be clear that you don’t want to damage the relationship, but want to respectfully disagree. Someone with a little more distance can confirm if you aren’t being unreasonable or passive-agressive with your wording.

  • Know when to let it go

Lastly, pick your battles. Agree to disagree. When you can’t find common ground, consider evaluating how you can move past the situation. This might mean just paying someone the amount they’re owed and moving on or agreeing to let the point drop and move on to something else. Some fights are costing you more energy than they’re worth. Spend that energy on things that make you happy!

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