Business Negotiation June 24, 2014

The Art of Softening Disagreements Before They Harden

Making organizational choices, whether in budgeting resources or designing new products, invariably involves informed argument between strong individuals with differing backgrounds, perspectives and motivations. The quality of such decisions depends on whether diverse viewpoints can freely emerge and how disagreements between participants are handled to reach consensus.

Informed and well-explored disagreement that allows for self-aware exploration of the issues at hand is the key to making better and more creative group decisions. Executives and team leaders should embrace informed disagreement. This sets the stage for a courteous exchange of member perspectives and concerns at meetings, which in turn will improve the participation level and creativity of the entire group.

The difficulty in fostering creative disagreement in the workplace arises when those who disagree harden their difference by becoming disagreeable as they argue points of view. What too often ensues is acrimony and divisiveness as things get out of control. 

For example, an advertising agency handles our brochure work. Generally we at the office review their suggestions, make changes, and after several iterations, make a decision. Disagreements between them and us frequently arise but are usually manageable. We are rarely privy to differences between them and within their organization.

However one time, a disagreement with us arose regarding their choice of brochure photos to represent attendees at typical seminars. While we had all previously agreed that the brochure would contain pictures of attendees listening to a speaker, nothing had been decided as to exactly what was to be pictures. We awaited their recommendations and sample photos.

The moment our meeting with the agency started their copywriter and graphic artist began to argue about the photos. Suddenly, to our consternation as customers, the style and composition of the photos and brochure was not the problem. Their dislike for one another was.

It began to escalate as the copywriter shouted that his coworker always put him and his ideas down. Frankly, we were embarrassed at the outburst. A simple difference of opinion had exploded into open conflict, recrimination and criticism.

After further shouting, we helped redirect the matter by specifying in greater detail what we wanted: one or two pictures of attendees at a seminar listening to a speaker, and two or three photos of male and female executives at a conference table speaking to one another while trying to settle a pricing, design or budget difference.

The next day the advertising agency found some archive photos that matched our needs and incorporated them into our brochure. Looking back at the affair, I think that the best picture might well have been a before and after photograph of the two advertising men actually arguing then settling this dispute in our office.

In the past, differences and disagreements in the workplace were discouraged. Today’s executives are more willing to expose conflicting ideas to open and rational debate. The problem is that those involved tend all too soon to add strong emotional content to the issues under contention, thereby heating the debate. Instead of focusing on the merits of opposing positions, each side attacks and disparages the opposition. By doing so they make it harder to reach agreement.

THE PROGRAM WAS GREAT! MY SEMINAR LEADER AND THE STRUCTURE OF THE COURSE KEPT ME CONSTANTLY STIMULATED. I NOW AM BETTER PREPARED TO GO INTO AN IMPORTANT NEGOTIATION MEETING AND STAY IN CONTROL, WHILE FINISHING THE MEETING SATISFIED.

Deanna D.
CASE MANAGER at THE JACKSON LABORATORY

IF YOU HAVE THE TRAINING BUDGET AND TWO DAYS TO SPARE, YOU'LL STRUGGLE TO FIND A PROGRAM MORE FAR-REACHING, ON-POINT, AND INSTANTLY IMPLEMENTABLE.

Jeff G.
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER at THE M.K. MORSE COMPANY

EXCELLENT COURSE, BRINGS MORE CONFIDENCE IN MY ABILITY TO NEGOTIATE. I THINK THIS COURSE IS A MUST FOR ALL EMPLOYEES WHO DEAL WITH CUSTOMERS.

John S.
CHIEF ENGINEERING MANAGER at EXXONMOBIL

THIS WAS VERY EFFECTIVE WITH A STRONG FOCUS ON BOTH-WIN NEGOTIATING.

Kathleen L.
SENIOR ANALYST at BLUE CROSS/BLUE SHIELD OF MICHIGAN

THE KARRASS CLASS WAS THE SINGLE BEST TRAINING CLASS/SEMINAR I HAVE EVER ATTENDED. EVERY TIME WE DID AN EXERCISE IT TAUGHT YOU WHAT TO DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME. THANKS.

Kim C.
PROCUREMENT at AMERICAN EXPRESS

THIS PROGRAM HAS GREATLY INCREASED MY CONFIDENCE AND ABILITY TO NEGOTIATE FOR MYSELF AS WELL AS MY COMPANY.

LaDonna E.
SENIOR STRATEGIC BUYER at HALLMARK

THE NEGOTIATING CLASS WAS VERY INFORMATIVE. THE INSTRUCTOR PROVIDED AN INSPIRATIONAL MESSAGE THAT CAN BE APPLIED TO EVERYDAY LIFE.

Mary S.
INTERNATIONAL SOURCING at FMC TECHNOLOGIES

WE NEGOTIATE EVERY DAY OF OUR LIVES, BOTH PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY. THIS COURSE DEFINES THE PROCESS AND PROVIDES TECHNIQUES TO ACHIEVE SUCCESSFUL RESULTS.

Phillip H.
VICE PRESIDENT at GE

PRIOR TO THIS CLASS I FELT AS THOUGH I WAS GETTING EATEN ALIVE BY INTERNAL NEGOTIATIONS WITH SALES REPS. NOW I FEEL PREPARED TO CHALLENGE WHAT THEY ARE SAYING AND BET TO THEIR REAL NEEDS.

Steve Q.
PLANNER at HONEYWELL

MANY PEOPLE FAIL TO ACHIEVE THEIR POTENTIAL BECAUSE THEY DON’T SEE THE OPPORTUNITIES TO NEGOTIATE A WIN/WIN AGREEMENT WITH THEIR COLLEAGUES. THIS CLASS IS AN EYE OPENER TO THIS DYNAMIC..

Stuart B.
CONTRACTS MANAGER at HEWLETT-PACKARD
Contact US
[email protected][email protected]+1 323 866-3800
SEMINARS
About Us
AboutDR. CHESTER KARRASSGARY KARRASSFAQGLOSSARYPRIVACY POLICYBLOG
QUICK LINKS