Psychology research tells us that for healthy relationships – and therefore a healthy workplace – we need five times as many positive experiences as negative ones.

The challenge then becomes, how do we have positive and healthy disagreements at work, where you’re not afraid to express your opinion and not threatened by others disagreeing with you?

We all hope that everybody will work together in harmony and disagreements won’t occur. Of course that’s only possible, if everyone’s on the same page about how to create a healthy work culture and is willing to think and care about those around them as much as themselves.

In the absence of that, here’s my recommendation:

“Be the change you want to see in the world”

By that I mean change your own actions and reactions when you disagree with something or someone. This will then change the way situations unfold around you as well as model positive work behaviour.

Disagreements are situations where it can be difficult to stay stay positive but where doing so can make you resilient to stress while also keeping positive relationships at work.

Action Steps

Here are 7 tips for handling disagreements in positive and healthy ways…

1. Stay calm. If you feel yourself getting too heated, ask ‘can we work through this later?’ and see if you can set a time to come back to it. Calm down and address the situation later. After cooling off, you’ll likely be more rational about the issue you’re trying to work out.

2. Stay on topic. Don’t bring in all the other things that are or have been issues. That will just inflame things.

3. Attack the issue, not the person. Don’t personalise things by using words like ‘you have’ or ‘you always’ or any other personal words. Don’t call them names. Stay respectful and issue focused.

4. Listen to what the other person has to say. Let the other person finish what they’re saying. As renowned author Steven Covey says “Seek first to understand, then to be understood’.

5. Try to discover a win-win way forward where everyone walks away satisfied. It’s not always possible but try to use some creativity in finding solutions.

6. Think about the seriousness of the issue. Will it really matter later on?

7. Agree to disagree if you can’t come to a resolution. Then emotionally unhook from it even if you haven’t achieved what you wanted. Don’t hold a grudge, it will only hurt your wellbeing, not theirs.

Disagreements don’t have to be ugly, stressful or mean. Healthy disagreements can even strengthen rather than weaken your relationships.

If you disagree in a positive manner, you’ll be able to keep positive relationships, maintain your own mental and emotional wellbeing and be a positive role model in your workplace.

Which one of these approaches will you focus on next time a disagreement comes up?


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