The Six Team Agreements to follow to disagree safely in a meeting

(Bob and I discussed the first 2 things in the team agreement that Dr. Amy Edmondson proposed. We are now continuing the discussion onto the rest of the 6 points.)

Bob: “Moving onto the 3rd point, I want to ensure people understand that when we disagree, we focus on the idea, not the person. Nowadays, it seems like people don’t know how to disagree and how to have constructive discussions anymore. It feels like either I have to agree with your idea, or I’m being non-inclusive / intolerant. However, being inclusive and tolerant doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything that person says or does. And when we discuss the topic, that should not be an attack on the person, and also shouldn’t be perceived as such.”

Me (Wendy): “I understand what you mean. I think we lost the art of communication, which disagreement is a part of. We can disagree with each other without being disagreeable. Maybe it would be good to give an example?”

Bob: “Instead of giving an example, how about we give people some guidelines about how to disagree?”

Me: “Sure.”

Bob: “Well, for one, you had already mentioned that one shouldn’t attack the person directly. That means not attacking the person for who they are, what they look like, or their capabilities. We all know that the people we hired have gone through a rigorous interview process, so we know they are capable and meet our standards from the get-go.”

Me: “Yes. And it’s a good idea to rephrase the arguments of the person in your own words and say it back to them, so that you can give the other person a signal that you understood what they said.”

Bob: “Oh! That is the “R” in CLEAR: Repeat & review people’s points.”

Me: “Exactly. I’d also say that we need to remember the “C” in CLEAR: Curious, caring & open-minded. When we keep a curious and open mind, and that we care and assume positive intent with the people that we work with, then it’s a lot easier to focus on the issue and not on the person.”

Bob: “I like how you are tying CLEAR to Dr. Edmondson’s 6 points. They work together nicely.”

Me: “Yes. People need to realize those are not 2 lists of things we should do. They are related. Especially for curious, caring, and being open-minded, we need to remind and reiterate to everyone that they should listen actively to the person and digest what they’re saying. People have a tendency to start thinking of rebuttals and counterarguments while the person is speaking. That’s a sign that you’re not being as curious as you should be.”

Bob: “Oooh, I like that.”

(Make sure to come back next time to see how Bob and I continue this interesting conversation)

Read Wendy’s entire story here

If you want to know more about how to apply psychological safety in your day-to-day work, check out the foundation of psychological safety.


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