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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

How to (Nicely) Disagree at Work

Plenty of people avoid conflict at work because they don’t want to rock the boat or they want to be seen as nice and easygoing.

But truthfully, disagreement is key to new, better ideas being born—and by bringing unique thoughts or concerns to the table, you prove that you’re adding valuable input to the team.

So, how do you disagree with your co-workers without sounding like a jerk? Liane Davey suggests several great ideas in her HBR article “Conflict Strategies for Nice People,” but one of my favorite tips involved a single word change:

Use ‘and,’ not ‘but.’ When you need to disagree with someone, express your contrary opinion as an ‘and.’ It’s not necessary for someone else to be wrong for you to be right. When you are surprised to hear something a teammate has said, don’t try to trump it, just add your reality. ‘You think we need to leave room in the budget for a customer event, and I’m concerned that we need that money for employee training. What are our options?’ This will engage your teammates in problem solving, which is inherently collaborative instead of combative.

Read some of her other helpful strategies, then think about what conflict it may be time for you to address at work today (and how you can do it right).

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