You can’t really expect that everyone is going to have the same opinion on every subject. That is no problem unless the difference of opinion is with someone you work with or otherwise associate with on a regular basis. That is to say, it is with someone with whom you need to have a good continuing relationship. Unless you believe that you will never have such a problem, it might be advantageous to be armed with a system for reaching an amiable conclusion. Here is a start on such a system:

Be the first to open the lines of communication. Begin by asking for input from the other person. This will show your willingness to solve the problem. This also will reduce the other person’s natural inclination to be defensive.

Repeating the details of the other person’s viewpoint will indicate that you have been attentive. It also provides opportunity to express agreement if there are some points on which your thinking is the same. Decide in advance that you will be openminded on the matter and willing to change your mind. People who are self-confident don’t mind admitting they were wrong about some aspect of the difference of opinion.

Getting an opinion from a third person is a good tactic. It is much easier and less offensive to disagree with a third person than with the one with whom you have the difference of opinion.

Don’t let emotions dominate your actions. Talk about what you are feeling and what you think the other person is feeling. That will help to keep communications clear and minimize the chance of developing guilt or anger.

When each has expressed his/her point of view, it is time to determine the things upon which there is now agreement. If that doesn’t fully solve the problem, agree to continue the conversation at a future time. During a recess, each party has opportunity to work towards a satisfactory conclusion. So long as you can maintain a cooperative spirit, a solution is surely to be reached even if it is just to agree to disagree.

Developing the ability to be a successful negotiator is one of the most valuable skills you can develop. With time and willingness to practice, anyone can do it.

Gregory B. Anderson–director

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