Socratic Listening: Accepting Other Points of View
October 30, 2012 by Bill Rosenthal

In a recent blog post about how to best handle “hand-me-down” customers, I made a suggestion for which an astute reader took me to task. I said that when taking over another rep’s accounts to tell customers that you would reexamine their pricing. Ann disagreed and she let me know why.

She had a very valid point, and I told her so. I also explained my position further so she could understand where I was coming from.

It’s very important to building good business relationships to let others know it’s OK to tell you when they disagree with something you say. When they express another opinion, you need to show them that you have truly considered their viewpoint.

If a colleague or customer politely disagrees with you, the first thing you should do is thank them for their honesty in offering their point of view. Reiterate their position to show that you really listened to what they told you. Point out the validity of their position.

This may be a good time to ask them a question for clarification of their viewpoint, especially if you still do not agree with their perspective; their response may help you to understand why they feel the way they do. If not, your question may help them to see your point of view more clearly.

If you are still at a stalemate, ask others in the meeting for their opinions. Widening the discussion takes some of the heat off you and lets you and others to share additional viewpoints.

For some of us, being defensive is a knee-jerk reaction to push-back of any kind. We go right into debate mode− even argument mode− in order to defend our position from attack. In doing so, what we really demonstrate to others is that we’re stubborn and inflexible. Once we earn that reputation, others will eventually stop telling us when they disagree; they simply shut down and placate us, permanently severing any effective lines of communication and prohibiting better, mutually satisfying outcomes.

When disagreements occur, take the opportunity to understand and discuss. The solutions you arrive at will be more palatable for everyone involved.