Stolen Teddy calls for effective disagreement. Image by Kristina Alexanderson

5 steps for Disagreeing Effectively

You know that feeling. Someone says something, and it strikes like a discordant note in your ear, a sharp twist in your gut, a teetering tower on the horizon.

1. Know your position

The first step to disagreeing well is to know where you stand and why. So often, I’ll see a design and have a gut reaction “I don’t like this.” But if I can’t figure out why or articulate the reason to myself, I have no business trying to explain it to someone else.

2. Get a gut check

This step is optional, but it’s so simple and effective you should always consider it. Before putting stating your disagreement loudly, see if your position resonates with a few trusted confidants. For example, say your team is making a decision to ship X. You’re worried the user experience is confusing. Pick another colleague or two whose opinion you respect and say, “Hey, I’m worried X is too confusing to be shippable. What do you think?” (This also can work well with your manager.)

3. Frame all the options

Once you know your position and have run it through the gut check, you might be tempted to straight up declare your position in a meeting or via e-mail. Resist this.

4. Dig for the root assumptions

Once you have all the options or perspectives laid out, the next step is to figure out what assumptions would make reasonable people prefer Option A over Option B, or vice versa. For example, say you and your team are deciding which features to include in the MVP of your product. You think feature X should be included, but your teammate doesn’t think so. Why is that?

5. Escalate for a decision

Once you have framed the options, extracted the differences in root assumption, and still can’t agree, swiftly escalate the decision to the appropriate decision-maker, making sure to include all the stakeholders and the agreed-upon framing.

Like what you read? My book, “The Making of a Manager” is coming out in March 2019! Order a copy here.

Currently: Inspirit. Former Product Design VP @ FB. Author of The Making of a Manager Find me @joulee. I love people, words, and food.

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