In Your Development, How Do You Deal With The People Who Disagree With You?

Leadership Lesson: In developing our leadership, we need to consider the positions of all stakeholders at (or beyond) the table, even if they don’t agree with us, so that all points and possibilities can be at least considered and acknowledged – not necessarily appeased and conceded.

Coming face-to-face with those who don’t appreciate or accept your message might not be as obvious, open, and overt as these two instances in Washington in the last few weeks for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump. Regardless, we should always consider why others don’t agree with us.

<<John inserts his usual this-is-not-a-political-leaning-post disclaimer.>>

I’m not going to break down the Trump and McConnell situations in this post, though McConnell’s I touched upon recently here.

The reason I won’t break each situation down here is because, honestly, I’m sick of talking about politics. In it, especially at the national level, one finds too many stories developing, tensions rising, and egos flailing. As (relatively?) reasonable spectators, we sit there and keep asking Why? of the TV, radio, or website from which we’re getting our news fix. After a while, you figure out that there’s no rhyme or reason to the stories, or answers or logic coming from your screens or speakers.

What I always appreciate about politics, though, is that it’s primed with great leadership examples of both what to do and what not to do. And believe me, both sides of the aisle are guilty when it comes to indiscretions, poor messaging, and lack of integrity. And although much of it can take place behind closed doors, politics has enough take place in the open public forum that we see relationships, missions, strategies, policies, etc., play out in front of us – or at least enough to pick up some lessons.

Keep in mind: Although the lessons play out at great levels of power and office, they can easily be broken down so that we, the everyday laypeople, can use them.

So back to the examples of people showing these politicians just how much they’re not fans of their policies — that got me thinking: We non-politicians don’t usually hear about or see disagreements related to us in such public fashion, but how do we address people who we might know disagree with us?

Do we just let it be and continue fighting for our side of the issue? Do we keep arguing back, getting caught up in a vicious cycle of wasted time? Do we try to convince them with the same old points and information? Do we update them with new information and perspectives? Is it possible to see them as a partner in the environment, or will we always merely see them as a foe in mission?

When I’ve worked with clients who knew they had detractors within reach of their operation, I posed certain questions to determine how the client factored that person or group into their approach going forward.

Below are just some of those starter questions. Each client’s answers to the questions will be different, which then ripple out to different questions or follow-up questions based on the first responses. It can be quite a rabbit hole.

(These questions would not easily resolve the McConnell and Trump situations. Those instances stem from deep-seeded sides so entrenched in their own beliefs that the default setting lately is to reject the other side outright. Neither side does itself any favors. The questions below are tools to use before you reach that point of no return.)


Related In The Books Podcast – Episode 10:
Leadership & Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box
By The Arbinger Institute


The first two points below are the biggest parts of the foundation of the work that needs to be done – going back to reassess what’s been done and conveyed to date, and seeing what can be salvaged and built upon. The remaining points pose questions to consider for moving forward.

Why Do They Disagree?

It’s important to understand clearly what the other side is presenting in their objections. It’s not enough to dismiss information because it comes from a certain group or person with which we’ve disagreed in the past.

What do you think they think of you? What do they really think of you?

Before you fix anything, you need to know the details of a relationship and run a diagnostic so that you can focus your best resources and efforts on the real problem.

Think about it with a clear and sound head, not an emotional and irrational heart.

Related Post: What Would Someone Write About You In A Letter of Reference?

How Have They Voiced It Before?

Looking back at past instances, how much of your disagreement with the other side was based on the substance of their argument versus its delivery? What is it that turned you off to working with them in the past and getting their buy-in? Do they need more “guidance” from you as to how they have to refine their argument? Do they know what it was in the past that you took issue with specifically, leading to their needs not being met?

Both sides should do their due diligence and present their best cases. This BS that’s based in emotion gets us nowhere. Everyone has a responsibility to argue their best points. Each side or person should present their best case while assuming that it will be demanded of them.

Nothing in this can be half-assed if anything of value is on the line and at stake. These considerations can be taken into account whether we’re talking about someone you deal with every day or someone who is a far-removed stakeholder. You can’t reach everyone, but as best as you can, there are some basic questions you should ask and basic understanding you should have.

Will You Be Fair To Them?

Can you be objective about their needs? Can you or someone you trust be objective about your actions to date? Whose outside and objective opinion have you sought? Who will speak truth to your power when it comes to being open-minded to others and their needs?

Related Post: What People Teach Us: Jocko Willink, Arguing For Your Point Yet Asking For Balance

Do You Need Them?

What are you each missing that the other side can provide? How do you complement each other? How can you share best practices? Can their opinions help you with the blind spots in your mission? What might you learn from each other’s setbacks?

Who Suffers If It Continues This Way?

If things continue the way they are, who loses out? Have you truly taken stock of everyone who would be impacted, by following those ripple effects of consequence out on their paths? What do you lose out on by not combining your resources with those who disagree with you? What good could be achieved for your common environment?

How Much Will You Invest In Them Going Forward?

If, in some way, a productive conversation can be had – not necessarily agreement but, at least, a working discussion — how can you try to ensure the lines of communication stay open? What steps will you take to ensure the new connection is a priority to be nourished and not a faux-greement to be dismissed? How will you ensure integrity, respect, and courtesy are infused in each step going forward?


Contrary to popular belief, not everyone has to get along. Yes, the intention to do so should be there, the effort to achieve it should be put in, and the integrity to mean it should be displayed – but it’s not always going to work out. Everyone should do their due diligence and try, but if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.

The effort is always going to mean more than the result. If you gave it your best, most reasonable people will see, appreciate, and remember that.

But if your work is driven by your ego, you take away from what’s possible and become lazy in your relationship with others.

And it’s when you half-ass an effort like that or don’t care that you can get into problems.



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