Way too often I hear clients say "my colleagues just doesn't understand" or "my client doesn't get it.” Then we turn on the television and see two seasoned professionals storm off set of a national talk show. A few weeks ago on “The View,” the hosts got into a heated debate with guest Bill O’Reilly about plans to build a Muslim community center near Ground Zero that turned into a screaming match resulting in Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg walking off the set. Barbara Walters immediately turned to the audience and said, “you’ve just seen exactly what should not happen.”
While this type of behavior happens everyday with managers, employees, children, spouses, and friends, Ms. Walters is exactly right. This illustrates the crux of our problem. We just stop communicating when we can't take it anymore, and we leave; literally and figuratively.
I see so many people disagreeing with each other in professional settings. They scream, yell, rant, and rave and then storm off. We should and need to be able to talk to anyone about anything and see the other persons’ viewpoint. This is the new “diversity” training today. It is from the discourse that new ideas come and that we learn and grow. Disagreements with clients and even spouses are what makes us think of the other persons point of view.
We can't move forward past disagreements to be productive unless we learn to ask questions about varying opinions. Some example questions could be:
- "Hmm...that's an interesting point. What makes you believe that?”
- “How did you come to feel or think that way?”
- “Please teach me why you and I disagree. What can I learn from you?”
We need role models who listen. Where are they? I am desperate for a leader that can fairly debate and disagree, and still shake hands at the end. Who can I learn from? If we all spoke in a diplomatic, considerate manner, we would be able to explain to our clients why our son’s football game is critical, and why we need an extra day to submit our proposal.
Wendy Kaufman is the President and Founder of Balancing Life’s Issues, a national corporate training company. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.