One of the biggest mistakes happening in business right now is that people do not know how to disagree agreeably. Being disagreeable in an agreeable manner promotes alternate and oftentimes improved ways of thinking. When differing opinions are present, the synergy of intelligence can be released. But only if people disagree agreeably.

Think about it, when is the last time you said yourself or heard someone on your team say the words, "Not only is it acceptable to disagree on this team, but it is actually encouraged." Instead, most people are so concerned with being right that the possibility of a better way doesn't cross their minds.

Every person on the planet has fallen prey to this at one time or another. Certainly, some experience this more than others, but the point is that it is totally normal to confuse our opinions with fact.

Ben Franklin was one of the smartest and most influential people in American history. When a colleague brought to his attention that he was becoming impossible to be around because he knew so much that no one could tell him anything, Franklin was wise enough to realize his mentality would not only slow his learning, but also cause him to end up friendless.

Franklin immediately resolved to change his language. No longer would he allow himself to use words like "certainly" or "undoubtedly," but rather would replace them with "I conceive" and "I imagine." When a contradictory opinion was presented, Franklin "denied himself the pleasure of contradicting," and instead he forced himself to search for the intellect in the opposing statement.

To Franklin's delight, he found that his conversations became much more pleasant, and surprisingly his friends and colleagues became much more open to his opinions. They were more willing to forgive his mistakes and happier to celebrate his successes.

There is an old saying: "Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?" Not that I am encouraging anyone to be wrong; that's not the point. The point is, you are going to be wrong, and that's okay. It is much better to be open-minded to the idea that you could be wrong than to become married to any one opinion.

Learn to use these phrases to open the lies of communication and increase the chances of disagreeing agreeably:

"In my opinion..."

"Here is what I believe..."

"I certainly could be wrong on this, but this is what I think..."

The Disagree Agreeably Challenge

Next time you find yourself disagreeing with someone's opinion, ask yourself these 2 questions:

  1. What is the most valuable piece of information in the opposing opinion?
  2. Is there a way to combine the value from the opposing opinion with the value from my opinion?

Open your mind for learning at every curve by reminding yourself that your opinions are just that--opinions, and not necessarily facts. Like Benjamin Franklin, you might surprise yourself by realizing just how much other people actually know.