Take our user survey and make your voice heard.

Here
and
Now

opinions

How to disagree agreeably

28 Comments
By Craig Kirkwood

“You’re wrong and you’ve got no idea what you’re talking about!” They were the first words out of Mike’s mouth when his HR department head told him he didn’t need extra staff to meet his sales target. The HR head, who we’ll call Nomura, said “all other departments have to do without extra staff at this tough time in the company’s performance and so do sales.”

It was like waving a red flag in front of a bull and Mike reacted accordingly. Mike didn’t get to be the sales director of this large multinational consumer goods company in Tokyo by always being the nice guy and accepting at face value what was said to him. Actually he was quite proud of his aggressive demeanor and driving forcefulness.

Yet, since he had been in Japan, he found he wasn’t winning a lot of the discussions he was having and things were not going his way as often as he wished. When we met over a coffee a couple of weeks ago to discuss his frustrations, I went through some of the principles of “Gaining Willing Cooperation.”

That is, show respect for the other person’s opinion. Never say, “You’re wrong.” In any disagreement, the most important point is to keep lines of communication open in order to ensure your own idea or opinion is heard. Too many times, when we immediately react in the negative to another person’s opinion, we end up putting them on the back foot and in most cases they will switch off to what we want to say.

In Mike’s case, he didn’t care; he knew what needed to be done and expected everyone to toe the line. He could always drive his point hard and get things done in his home country but here in Japan he found that this sort of approach was just not working. Sure, people would listen and give off the right signals as though they understood what needed to be done, yet when it came to execution, nothing was being implemented along the lines he thought everyone had agreed to. Mike felt that going at it harder and making sure everyone knew he was the boss would do the trick. But by the time he came to see me, things were just going from bad to worse.

I took him through a process that would help him organize his thoughts before he jumped all over someone with a differing opinion. Before responding to a person’s opinion or idea, I asked him to take a few seconds to consider:

-- what he thinks (of the opinion or idea he has just heard) -- why does he think that (what has been his own experience with this idea or opinion) -- finally, what evidence does he have that makes him feel this way (through his experience, does he have an example he could put forward that demonstrates either the positive or negative aspect of the idea).

Once he has processed this, he could use what we call a cushion, that is, a way to soften the blow or response, something that will acknowledge in a friendly way that he has heard the other person, it could be something like, “I know where you are coming from”, or “I understand why you say that.”

Next is to give an example of a situation he has actually experienced without using a negative filler word like “but,” “however,” or “nevertheless.” I told Mike how this was one of the hardest things to do when responding to an idea which you don’t agree with, but through constant use and practice, it can be done with outstanding results. I said, “As soon as you do say ‘but’ or ‘however,’ the other person immediately knows you disagree with them and therefore the lines of communication will be closed without even having your own idea heard.”

Once his example has been explained, he needs to give some evidence which shows how things turned out. Finally, he can then say something like, “Therefore I believe …” and state his own idea or opinion in a way that will certainly get heard by the other party and may even be received in a favorable light. Most important of all though is to ensure your own opinion is heard and on the table for debate.

Mike actually tried this “Disagree Agreeably” process on Nomura the other day when it was decision-making time between senior managers of the company on a new policy of introducing casual business attire to the workplace, a trial had been in place for the past month and they needed to make a final decision which way to go with business attire.

Nomura said that with casual business attire in the workplace over the past month, he believes it provides an environment of creativity and increased productivity. Mike was against the idea of going casual and he was almost ready to respond in his usual direct way when he remembered our talk. Instead he said, “I can see why you might say that.” (Cushion) “Last week we had a very important client visiting our corporate office. (Example) At the end of the day, our guest casually mentioned to me how ‘unprofessional’ some of my co-workers looked in their casual clothes. (Evidence) I am now concerned it will affect our future business.” (Own opinion) This example shows that relaxing our company dress codes can impact our business in a negative way. Therefore I believe that we need a more professional dress code re-instituted.

How do you think it turned out this time for Mike? I am pleased to say he won through and by the looks of things for Mike, his opinion and ideas will be heard and acted on a lot more in the future. He now knows how to “disagree agreeably.”

The writer is president, Dale Carnegie Training® Japan (www.dale-carnegie.co.jp)

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

28 Comments
Login to comment

I really loathe this kind of literature.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think that the ideas presented here are so fundamental to getting along well with others. Whether it be in business, family, friends, or strangers. We tend to think that everyone sees the world pretty much in the same way, the way we do (or should see it this way). But people are very different in their ways of thinking because of how they were raised and their own personal experiences. We need to "seek first to understand, then to be understood". As much as we want to be understood by someone, we need to care about first understanding someone else in the same way. I think this is the true meaning of the "Golden Rule". The goal is not to win your case and be right, rather to create a wonderful relationship through mutual understanding. Which leads to synergy - creating something amazing through the relationship that was never there before(a much higher level than compromise). Try to think all of your relationships as if they were a marriage. In a marriage you wouldnt think: "who's winning in your marriage?" if one person isn't winning, both are losing. Getting along with other people is a very natural process. It requires patience and self control. You can't be quick with relationships like with driving on the streets, accessing information on the internet, or making money. Nuturing relationships takes character.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"I really loathe this kind of literature."

You’re wrong and you’ve got no idea what you’re talking about! :P

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I would have to say that an objective person would most likely find that out of all the posters at JT, I was the most agreeable disagreer of us all.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

aaah, ok I did learn something. here goes " mr kirkwood, I understand why you wrote this, however I find it just another example of the dull patronising kind of self-help rubbish that so-called experts get paid to write for people totally lacking in common sense who need to be told what to do in every step of their lives. Therefore I believe you will have a glittering career in Yahoo lifestyle columns. I'd give you some advice but am sure you probably already wrote it in another article anyhow"

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Now if his Japanese coworker would do the same thing, it would be nice. The answer "This is Japan." is crap. I say take it to the real boss who ever it is. Sounds like his company has problems and are not focused on making money but "keeping the status quo". Very sad. Tell Mike to either keep to his values with this company, or find one that will respect him and not hinder his record, as long as the results hit the the bottom like.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A tool for tools to use on tools. Reads like great practice for the toiec though.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

im gonna try this. now here is a million dollar question: how do i pass this article to my boss?:p

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"I understand your opinion but please tell me again why I can''t have the extra staff". "Because it's the rule".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I learned this stuff a few years back at the Dale Carnegie course. It did wonders for my communication skills and public speaking skills. I remember applying 'don't use 'but'' to discussions, and having a better success rate.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If he couldn't produce results, what was "Mike" doing in the position? Shipped out to Japan because he was doing too much damage to the office back home?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

comment: Point 1, Mike doesn't exist. Nobody gets to the level of sales director of a large multinational consumer goods company in Tokyo without even the most basic clue about how to get people in positions of power to agree with him. In fact he would have to employ methods a good deal more sophisticated than the simplistic common sense conveyed in this "article". Unless of course Mike's dad owns the company.

Point 2 to johnshiomi. Anyone who can, in the same paragraph, use synergy, mutual understanding, compromise, and marriage ought to be lining up for a job at Dale Carnergie. If you could have just tossed in a bridge and a few holistics you'd be a shoe-in as a self-empowerment trainer.

Mo Contrary

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Oh these silly Americans, when will they stop putting their foot in it in Japan?

Ol' uptight Mike should have known that casual clothing is the norm in corporate Japan. Suits are only for weddings and funerals!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Just once I'd like to see a self-help guru end his lesson with... "And the next day Mike was fired." But then I might be smoking something from a Russian sumo wrestler, too.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

too succeed in Japan always agree with your superiors! Your own opinion is frowned upon! too think different is heresy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I got lost after the fourth paragraph. Tactfulness and respect will get you a lot farther when disagreeing agreeably. Understanding the big picture, then make your voice heard. That and conforming to the dress code.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Take cultural stereotype. Cast the potential customer as clueless. Fold cluelessness into story using cultural stereotype as main ingredient. Half bake, and voila! A career in cultural sensitivity training!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

too succeed in Japan always agree with your superiors! Your own opinion is frowned upon! too think different is heresy

Trust me, that applies to USA just as much. Let's not kid ourselves that American managers and CEO's are more open and receptive to the opinions of their lowly subordinates. One big reason why American manufacturing floundered is because of unwillingness of the mangement to listen to the suggestions by assembly line workers or not encouraging them to do so, at all. Contrary to the popular belief, American manufacturing did not lose its ground simply due to the cheaper imports.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I see nothing in the article that was not covered in the "Global Diversity" and "Self Assertivness" courses I took some 20yrs ago.

Seems to be more of an ad for the company than anything else.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You simply smile while flicking your middle finger.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How to disagree agreeably? Do it the Japanese way; lie

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Point 1, Mike doesn't exist. Nobody gets to the level of sales director of a large multinational consumer goods company in Tokyo without even the most basic clue about how to get people in positions of power to agree with him. In fact he would have to employ methods a good deal more sophisticated than the simplistic common sense conveyed in this "article". Unless of course Mike's dad owns the company.

Ever work with people out of the east coast. I see that style used a lot. It plays as well in japan as it does in the midwest.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

To "MoContrary". Yeah, my goal is in fact to be a "self-empowerment trainer". What do you mean by "throwing in bridges" and you have any good examples of "holistics". I always eager to learn. Hope you get this message. What is your line of work? Just curious...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Mike sounds like a real caber tosser.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I came to Japan to join a famous European company. During the induction day, a Japanese staff member gave a presentation mainly for the benefit of Japanese newbies about how it's ok to disagree with your boss and voice your own opinions. In fact, they went as far to say that if you disagree with your boss you must inform him. This produced numerous 'huueeeees'. However, it was also stressed that it's possible (and necessary) to do this while still being polite. The approach 'Mike' had is not only a complete no-no in Japan, it would also ensure his failure at any European company. Incidentally it was interesting to see all my Japanese fellow newbies turning up to work for the first few days in immaculate salaryman attire, only to quite rapidly swap that for the jeans and t-shirts everyone else was wearing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm thinking "Mike" is just a metaphorical vehicle used so that Mr. Kirkwood could drive home his point.

Of course, I've met plenty of folks here (mostly, sad to say, Americans) who do fit this profile. They take the "My way or the highway" approach and run through the Japan offices like a bull in China shop. I've never seen many last very long here.

Regardless of whether "Mike" is real or not, the point the Mr. Kirkwood makes is the important thing. I am pretty well synchronized with the local culture, but I'm going to try to put some of these ideas to work from Monday and see what I get.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There is an old saying: "it is better to catch flies with honey than with vinegar... this seems to apply in Japan too... You just have to clever in doing that, just that

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There is this saying: "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" it seems to apply to Japan too... You just have to clever in using words and non-verbal communication. I call this to myself privately "being diplomatic" so you can disagree every time you want and manage to turn around things... I'm not going to tell you my technique though...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites