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How excited are you about confronting a peer’s point of view?

The reality is, lots of us are somewhat cautious about challenging a peer’s ideas, because we believe this could be viewed as being confrontational.

But are you prepared to fight fairly and confront an idea you don’t agree with?” The phrase “fight fair” is key.

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Fighting fair is really focused on being respectful and congruent, while managing attitude, emotions and behaviours to confront a point of view you disagree with in a manner that’s psychologically safe and professional for all parties involved.

Awareness

One of the first insights in learning how to fight fair is being aware that the entire concept is focused on being fair to yourself by expressing your objections and allowing the other party to defend their point of view.

Fighting fair is about being honest, direct and firm on your position. It’s also about sharing your perceptions for the other side to hear and to process.

One way to learn how to fight fair is to be clear on what’s not fighting fair. Some examples of fighting unfair:

  • Trying to convince the other side your idea is right, and theirs is wrong.
  • Suggesting to others, behind the person’s back, how dumb you think their thinking is.
  • Not providing the other person an opportunity to respond to your observation.
  • Talking when the other person is trying to share their point of view.
  • Not seeking to understand the other person’s point of view and assuming the worst.
  • Making rude or offhanded comments.
  • Discounting the other side’s current situation and making decisions independently without listening and seeking to find a solution that can meet all parties’ needs.

Be aware of not only the words you say but how you say them, so that you invite the other person to respond and allow you to learn. Often, context can be missing from a comment; conversation may create an opportunity for new insights.

Accountability

Engaging in a fair debate and confronting another person’s point of view requires two critical factors: acceptance that it’s possible you may not be right and staying focused on the higher purpose (e.g., the organization’s success) rather than your ego or personal interests.

When two employees who work for the same organization have different points of view it can be a challenge when one or both are in love with their perspective and not open to feedback.

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If you confront or are confronted on your point of view, you’re responsible for your actions.

In a situation where you may be confronted and are unclear on how to respond, it’s okay to say you need a bit of time to think before you’re comfortable to reply.

Action

Perhaps one of the most obvious things you can do with the team you work with is to simply ask, “How will we challenge each other’s points of view in a respectful manner?”

Based on the team’s confidence and comfort level, if there are any gaps or the answer appears to be unclear, take a bit of time to write out how the team members will agree to fight fair. As well, define what’s not fighting fair. This will allow you to call people out when they’re not fighting fair in the future. It likely will happen, as old habits can take a bit of time to change.

Coaching tips for fighting fair:

  • Preframe your position. It’s helpful to collect your thoughts and organize your position and observations before confronting another person. Be clear on your facts, position and logic. Sometimes it can be helpful to write out your thoughts and print them, so you have a framework to present from.
  • Welcome the other side to share their point of view. Ultimately, it’s best when two parties with different points of view find a middle ground. To get to this point it’s important to create an opportunity for the other side to share their facts without being interrupted.
  • Look for compromise and collaboration. Sometimes finding middle ground is the best solution; other times, a difference of opinion sparks new thinking and collaboration that can result in a better outcome.
  • It’s okay to agree to disagree. Instead of forcing alignment, it may be okay to listen to the other side, present your position and if nothing changes to simply agree to disagree. This often can provide both sides some space and time to just think. Many times, one side will come back after reflection with the intention to get alignment and a resolution.

The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and total well-being of their employees first. Register for the 2020 Employee Recommended Workplace Award at: employeerecommended.com. This series of articles supports the award.

Read about the 2019 winners of the award and watch a video from the winners here. You can also purchase the benchmark report that outlines findings from 2019 at this link.

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Bill Howatt is the founder of Howatt HR Consulting and a co-creator of the Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

You can find other stories like these at tgam.ca/workplaceaward.

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