Sharing your opinion is an invitation for the rest of the team to share their opinion, setting the stage for an engaging discussion or debate. In this blog, we will discuss the skills you can use in sharing your opinion. Particularly, we will discuss how to use I-messages, disagree constructively, and build consensus.
An I-message is a message that is focused on the speaker. When you use I-messages, you take responsibility for your own feelings instead of accusing the other person of making you feel a certain way. The opposite of an I-message is a You-message.
An I-message is composed of the following:
A description of the problem or issue
Describe the person’s behavior you are reacting to in an objective, non-blameful, and non-judgmental manner.
“When … “
Describe the concrete or tangible effects of that behavior.
“The effects are … “
A suggestion for alternative behavior
“I’d prefer … “
Here is an example of an I-message:
“When I have to wait outside the office an extra hour because you didn’t inform me that you’d be late (problem/issue), I become agitated (effect). I prefer for you to send me a message if you will not be able to make it (alternative behavior).”
The most important feature of I-messages is that they are neutral. There is no effort to threaten, argue, or blame in these statements. You avoid making the other person defensive, as the essence of an I-message is “I have a problem” instead of “You have a problem”. The speaker simply makes statements and takes full responsibility for his/her feelings.
There is nothing wrong with disagreement in a team. No two people are completely similar therefore it’s inevitable that they would disagree on at least one issue. There’s also nothing wrong in having a position and defending it.
To make the most of a disagreement, you have to keep it constructive. The following are some of the elements of a constructive disagreement:
Solution-focus. The disagreement aims to find a workable compromise at the end of the discussion.
Mutual Respect. Even if the two parties do not agree with one another, courtesy is always a priority.
Win-Win Solution. Constructive disagreement is not geared towards getting the “one-up” on the other person. The premium is always on finding a solution that has benefits for both parties.
Reasonable Concessions. More often than not, a win-win solution means you won’t get your way completely. Some degree of sacrifice is necessary to meet the other person halfway. In constructive disagreement, parties are open to making reasonable concessions for the negotiation to move forward.
Learning-Focused. Parties in constructive disagreement see conflicts as opportunities to get feedback on how well a system works, so that necessary changes can be made. They also see it as a challenge to be flexible and creative in coming up with solutions for everyone’s gain.
Consensus means unanimous agreement on an area of contention. Arriving at a consensus is the ideal resolution of bargaining. If both parties can find a solution that is agreeable to both of them, then anger can be prevented or reduced.
The following are some tips on how to arrive at a consensus:
Focus on interests rather than positions. Surface the underlying value that makes people take the position they do. For example, the interest behind a request for a salary increase may be financial security. If you can communicate to the other party that you acknowledge this need, and will only offer a position that takes financial security into consideration, then a consensus is more likely to happen.
Explore options together. Consensus is more likely if both parties are actively involved in the solution-making process. This ensures that there is increased communication about each party’s position. It also ensures that resistances are addressed.
Increase sameness and reduce differentiation. A consensus is more likely if you can emphasize all the things that you and the other party have in common, and minimize all the things that make you different. An increased empathy can make finding common interests easier. It may also reduce psychological barriers to compromising. An example of increasing sameness and reducing differences is an employer and employee temporarily setting aside their position disparity and looking at the problem as two stakeholders in the same organization.