From Disagreement to Persuasion

From Disagreement to Persuasion

The tweet, which is the sound a bird makes, is a communication to other birds. It is never a protest. Twitter, however, seems to be full of angry protests about something. Twitter has actually become more a medium of protests than impromptu expressions of wide range of feelings and emotions. Why Raina, Jadeja and Ashwin were not chosen to play is the latest issue.

Every newspaper shares a hundred stories. What’s the common theme in them? Disagreement. Those are stories which denounce every decision, every statistics and every analysis and conclusion. We read about disagreements. Disagreements are often expressed in disparaging manner. That is the unfortunate new trend.

I am told that there are two types of problems. Convergent and Divergent. Convergent problems are those which have only one right answer. An example: What is the shortest way to reach Gateway of India from ITM Kharghar? There is only one right answer.

Divergent problems have more than one right answer. For example: How will you develop students to be good leaders? How to increase market share of a certain product? How to improve productivity of labour?

While we can solve convergent problems easily by following a set method, divergent problems are solved by generating consensus. A good manager must learn how to build consensus. It involves facilitating and influencing. These skills are not taught at management schools, nor practised extensively in the corporate world.

That’s where the problem is. The achievers, ever in a hurry to hit the goal, use power to dictate the solution rather than generating consensus. It is quick, but it cuts people. Every use of power sends people away from us. Every use of power erodes trust. It is not as if the people are not aware of this negative consequence, it is just that they do not wish to take the time consuming route to consensus; they pay the price which is immeasurable.

I am reminded of the scene at the end of the movie Page 3. Konkona has lost her job and is upset. Atul Kulkarni tells her “You have to be in the system to change the system.” That is a very insightful message! We have to ask ourselves if we are committed to the cause or purpose which it is supposed to serve, even if we disagree with a certain decision. In the absence of such a soul searching, we tend to direct our guns against the decision maker. It rarely serves the purpose. Peter Drucker says ‘The person in power will decide. Make peace with that!’

So the party in power with majority of votes in its favour will decide. Sometimes opponents will take the final call. We may fume and fret about it, but if we remember Peter Drucker’s words, we will find the right way.

The lesson to learn is that we must accept that the other person’s view also can be right. If we are committed to the cause or purpose, we must work to bring about an agreement. The first step and the most important step in this direction is that we must learn to disagree without being disagreeable!

There are some dos and don’ts for this to happen. Firstly, expressing our opinions loading with emotions will only fan the fire, we must learn to express in a neutral tone. Like Iftekhar would speak in ‘Deewar.’ Secondly we have to learn and practise the skill of empathetic listening. This skill is in terrible short supply in the world, although it is the hallmark of the effective manager. Mark Twain said, “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you would rather have talked.” Third, we often wish to explain our point first in the belief that if it is agreed, as we hope it would be, the agreement will be reached quickly. The best practice is to listen and understand to the other’s point of view first. If we wish to influence people we have to be open to get influenced, and it is not a sign of weakness to appreciate the worthy point of view of other person.

Henry Drummond said, “The people who influence you are the people who believe in you.” That is so true! Let us think over it – it will surely change our response to anybody who tries to influence us, and also our style of influencing others.

Vivek S Patwardhan

[This article was written for ‘Corporate Notepad’ of ITM]