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Manage your allies strategically

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in Workplace Communication

You’ve either seen it or done it: You disagree with something during a meeting, but instead of speaking up, you sit there and stew.

Maybe that’s because whenever an alternative point of view is raised, it gets batted down.

There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing. Arguing is vital to the health of any group, so you can weed out bad ideas and choose the best ones.

Here are tips on managing your allies strategically, arguing professionally and making sure you have a safety net in place:

Lay the groundwork. Find out who your allies and challengers are. Share your thoughts with them before the meeting. Find out their goals, concerns and opinions, and you even may be able to change some minds beforehand.

Be prepared. Have your facts and arguments in order. Visualize whom you might disagree with at the meeting, and over what. Think about how they might hit your hot buttons.

Anticipate the worst. If you suspect that anyone is out to undercut you, line up your supporters for backup.

But assume the best. Start from the stance that everyone cares what everyone else has to say, and that nobody’s a control freak.

Speak up in honest disagreement. Try to build a bridge to something you can all agree on, but don’t steamroll anybody.

Say something like, “I know this is where you come from ... let’s play devil’s advocate. Let’s look at what could go wrong.” You could also avoid isolating an individual by posing your question to the group.

People will always disagree. It’s how you handle it that counts.

— Adapted from “Arguing at Work,” Heidi Brow, Forbes.com.

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