Gentle Disagreement

By Lindy Earl

“I sense disagreement.” I found the words magical, especially as they were said in a seminar just after a woman in the group made it very clear she vehemently disagreed with what had just been presented. The question isn’t who was right, the presenter or the attendee. The point is how well the presenter diffused a volatile situation. Wow!

By understating the response, the potential explosion evaporated. In fact, any negativity was immediately dismissed. Yes, there was some appropriate laughter. But truly, the situation turned from combative to conciliatory. All with three words!

Why? How had this presenter so artfully taken control of the situation? Well, I have a few theories and you may have more . . .

One, not taking things too seriously. As the presenter he could claim to be the expert in the room. Thus when someone disagreed with him, he could have become defensive. Instead, he chose to not take himself, or his presentation, too seriously.

Two, excellent use of humor. By underplaying the response, he had people smiling and laughing. Humor can be tricky as some people are ready to be offended at anything, but he did well. A simple observation said more than if he had said more.

Three, I wonder if he wasn’t prepared. Whether or not he had made this particular presentation before, he might have been aware that he was sharing some questionable or hard-to-hear information. Thus, he was prepared for opposition, and forewarned is forearmed (to borrow an adage from the early 1500s).

Four, I think it was good that he acknowledged the comment versus ignoring it. To ignore it may have meant the person might have steamed and stewed and may have come back with serious venom. By addressing the situation he kept control and was able to move forward.

This also reminds me to be better prepared, possibly with such a simple statement as, “I sense disagreement,” or maybe a question an old client asked, “How so?” If someone disagreed with anything in his sales presentation, or claimed they could get the product for less, he would use two words, “How so?” It invited the other person, without condescension or condemnation, to state their case.

So it’s my job to not take myself too seriously, to use humor appropriately and not offensively, and to prepare myself for any situation. It sounds easy on paper. Let’s see how well this lesson can be applied in real life . . .

Lindy Earl is an In-house Consultant, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. You can have Lindy in to motivate your Team with Seminars and Workshops, or be more successful when Lindy works with your staff one day a week, with her unique business model. Contact her at 770-912-6192.