10 ways to express yourself tactfully in the office
How do you disagree with a co-worker without getting a reputation as a trouble-maker? Here are 10 ways to show diplomacy … and mean it.
1. The byword: respect
It’s perfectly legitimate to hold a different opinion from a co-worker. However, it is essential that you respect the person without denigrating their ideas.
Respect is the firewall that prevents discussions (and relationships) from turning nasty at work.
2. Clarify in writing
The best negotiators all know that important discussions cannot be delivered off the cuff, but need preparation.
To clarify your thoughts, write down the points you want to make, your reasoning and responses to potential opposition.
This might seem like a lengthy exercise but it gives you control of your subject, lets you fine-tune what you want to say and even regulate the tone to use.
The purpose is not to replace face-to-face exchanges with written ones, but to prepare for a verbal tug-of-war.
3. Fair and friendly
“You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” goes the saying.
Sarcasm, animosity or resentment have no place at work. It is always easier to get your ideas across if you keep an open mind and express your opinions while showing goodwill and receptiveness to others’ ideas.
4. Pipe down and listen!
Have you ever noticed how, when a discussion starts to escalate, both sides dig in their heels and stop listening to each other?
If you feel your co-worker is moving in this direction, take a deep breath, stand back and really listen to what they are saying.
This strategy involves refocusing your attention on them instead of being hell bent on selling your own point of view.
Reformulate what the other person has said. Ask questions to make sure you really understand their perspective and to avoid misunderstandings.
If you’re calm and composed, it will be easier to understand where your co-worker is coming from and what their motives are.
Learn to appreciate moments of silence. Don’t try at all costs to fill them with comments that add nothing to the discussion. These interludes give you time to think and, if need be, modify your approach.
5. “I” or “we”?
Speak for yourself. Don’t take it for granted that co-workers share your point of view.
The “we” may give an impression of camaraderie and solidarity and lend your argument more weight, but don’t include others unless you know they share your ideas.
Including others in the “we” is likely to annoy some people.
6. Facts only
Your argumentation will be more convincing if you stick to facts, rather than air impressions.
Base your assertions on figures that are correct, on your experiences, your particular expertise and what you know.
This is how you will gain credibility.
7. Precise and concise
Finding the mot juste is important, since it shows you have prepared for the discussion and know what you are talking about.
This is not a public speaking competition; embroidered discourse will fail to impress when time is limited and arguments need to be concise.
When it’s your turn to speak, state your main argument straight away instead of meandering before coming to your point.
8. Aim for common ground
Disagreements at work are often not about the destination itself, but on how to get there.
The solution is often found by focusing on where you agree, rather than where your opinions diverge.
Keep in mind that you and your co-workers often share the same values and qualities. Talking about areas of consensus, narrows the difference of opinions.
People who have the power to persuade have a knack for picking the right moment to present their arguments.
You need to make sure the person you disagree with is in a receptive mode. You are more likely to attain your objectives if they are more open to your ideas.
Master the art of reading others’ body language.
10. Show humility in defeat
You win some, you lose some. Accept graciously not to win every battle.
Just because your co-worker doesn’t see eye-to-eye today, does not mean the battle is over. Who knows, tomorrow they might change their mind.
For that to happen, you need to show sportsmanship and how to concede defeat with good grace.