How To Handle Disagreements

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How to handle disagreements that occur in a team or in a work base relationship


By Morton Patterson, Striding Out Business Coach



I have a friend whom I have known for more than 20 years and in actual fact he is as close as a brother. Recently against my better judgement, I opened my mouth before engaging my brain and said some things that caused him pain and challenged the stability of a 20 year relationship. I must admit that afterwards it troubled me when I realised my comments had gone too far. However, despite his pain, he called me and said I think we need to talk. That request showed great maturity, humility and a forgiving mind. I am not sure I could have done that so soon. This led me to consider how to handle disagreements that occur in a team or in a work base relationship.

Many facets make up a successful relationship and this could be in marriage, business relationship or in a team. Shared values are one of them such as a healthy regard and respect for each other’s opinion, recognising and praising the strengths and weaknesses of the team and the ability to compromise.

Teams work well when, as a whole values are honoured so when disagreements occur it’s those values that may form the thread that enables you to sew the relationship back together. In my case, we shared many values, the principle one being a healthy respect and regard for each other. Before meeting I set an intention to really listen to his viewpoints without defending or justifying my own behaviour, even though it was difficult and uncomfortable. I listened If you are the one that is hurting maybe through your pain you may have to be the one who calls your manager/family or the team together to call the meeting and clear the air. This shows strength of character and will be a testament to the future of your relationship and the respect and regard you have for the team, your friendship or your partner.  As hard as it is – try to be as objective as possible. My friend said, he looked back on the events of the evening and our relationship over the years and had to ask himself, is this typical? It wasn’t. Try to stand back and take a fair and just position. 


Things to consider 


  1. Be careful whose opinion you solicit about how to resolve the conflict. Sometimes the advice you seek can either inflame or defuse the situation. Seek the opinions of others that you trust and know to be objective and fair.
  2. If you value the relationship – listen without defence. This is hard, but sometimes all we want is to be listened to and feel understood. When you are defending yourself the person does not feel honoured or listened to.
  3. Apologise. We all make mistakes and speak out of turn. Grievances grow because someone will not apologise or accept responsibility for the part they played. This shows humility. As a leader of a team/department or head of your family, to be seen to apologise will indicate you can be wrong. To your children it will instil respect and admiration and to your team it will gain their support.
  4. Be honest about how you saw the situation, what you felt, saw and need. Even though you played a part in this, you have needs also and this may be a good time to ask for what you would want to help to heal the relationship.
  5. If you are going to give feedback or express an opinion do no drink alcohol before your meeting or discussion.
  6. Sometimes it takes time for disagreements to heal. Keep talking. It may also be that things do not end amicably and to move forward you may have let go and move on.



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