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Effective communication in the workplace
Effective communication in the workplace

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3.1 Challenging opposing views

When communicating with colleagues and customers you may have to deal with people who hold opposing views or who have ideas that they feel are better than yours. In situations where you would like to challenge an existing approach, you have to use your communication skills to influence the views of others, without appearing to be aggressive.

Imagine that you are in a meeting and you have an idea that is different to the one that your colleague has put forward. She seems to have the backing of your manager. Yours is a new approach and you have spent some time researching it and would like a fair hearing.

Your colleague is behaving smugly and does not want to hear your idea, and your manager isn’t interested either.

A photograph of a man presenting at a meeting.
Figure 3 Communicating in a presentation.

There are a few simple techniques that you could adopt that will help you to influence the conversation:

  • First, be fully prepared. Have your idea ready and ensure that you have actively listened to the other ideas or opinions, as they might also support your suggestions.
  • Present your ideas coherently and quickly.
  • Demonstrate how your idea will benefit your colleagues/business/customers. Prepare for negative responses and questions by anticipating them.

Leadership author Suzi McAlpine (2014) suggests some possible opening lines for a constructive discussion, including:

‘I have a different perspective.’

‘What other alternatives have you considered?’

‘What are the potential risks?’

‘Do you mind if I challenge that idea?’

‘Here’s another angle to consider.’

‘We’ve listed why this is a good idea. Let’s consider why this is a not a good idea for a moment.’