In session ten of the Carnegie course we covered how to disagree agreeably. We began by creating a list of things people disagree over. No hot button issues like gun control or the death penalty; these were mild subjects like casual Fridays, smoking at work, speed limits, etc. (I suggested the Federal Reserve and monetary policy; that went over like a pregnant pole vaulter).
Once we had our list, we took turns responding to provocation from our instructor. He would pick a topic, ask how we felt about it, then defend the opposite position. For example, I feel that dressing up for work is mostly overrated – that a good worker can do a good job in a clown suit. Our instructor defended the opposite – that a true professional should dress the part. In short, he was the devil’s advocate while we practiced disagreeing agreeably.
We were careful to avoid ‘weasel’ words – ‘but’, ‘however’, ‘even so’, etc. Carnegie teaches that these words indicate to the other party that they’re words are being disregarded.
When disagreeing, we made it a point to demonstrate to the other party that we understand his position. Once the other person feels understood, he becomes more receptive to our position. One effective technique for demonstrating our understanding is ‘Feel, Felt, Found.’
Feel, Felt, Found works like this: when the other party takes a position different from yours, you can say, ‘I understand you feel x. In the past, I also felt x. What I found was y, so now I feel z.’ I’ve found this to be an effective technique for sorting out differences.