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It can be difficult to foster an environment of teamwork and collaboration when you continually run up against a colleague who challenges your views. This behavior can not only feel maddening, it might also make you question your own position or make you unwilling to contribute thoughts and ideas in a group setting. Find ways to compromise and communicate with your colleague to ensure you respect one another, even when you disagree.
Handling Unwarranted Confrontation
If a co-worker habitually challenges your ideas in a group forum in a confrontational manner, don't engage him or get into an argument. Pause for a moment, look the colleague in the eye, and ask him in a calm and professional voice to repeat what he said. This will force the co-worker to either repeat his comment in front of everyone with the same level of confrontation, or soften his approach. When used often enough, this technique can make your colleague think twice about the way he offers his differing opinion. The next time he might take a more professional approach that opens up positive dialogue.
Hold Your Ground
There's a time and place for everything, including professional disagreements. If a colleague interrupts you or talks over you in an effort to contradict your point or insert his own opinion, gently remind him that you still have the floor. For example, you might say, "I know you have an opinion on the matter too, Steve. Could I please finish my train of thought first, and then we'll be happy to hear your idea." If the colleague is disputing something you say before you have a chance to address the point, note that as well. For example: "I think I know what your concern is Steve, and I'm going to cover that in just a minute."
If a particular colleague has a long history of disputing you and disagreeing with you, you might be able to anticipate his arguments or objections. Prepare rebuttals to address anything your colleague might throw at you. This will help you support your own arguments and strengthen your points without being confrontational. It also allows you to give him credit for his constructive comments when warranted. For example: "That's a really good point, and I can see where there might be some valid concerns about the approach. Let me explain how I think we can address them."
Agree to Mutual Respect
The bottom line is, colleagues are not going to agree with each other all the time. Constructive debate and brainstorming can strengthen the overall performance of the entire team. Speak to your colleague at a time when your temper is on an even keel and call a truce. For example, you might say, "I know we both have strong opinions at times, but sometimes I feel like you have an argument for everything I say. Can we agree to a respectful and civil way to discuss matters when it's clear there's no one 'right' answer?"
Ask for Mediation
If the issue with your colleague has an underlying hostility to it, and you can't amicably resolve the problem, take it to your immediate supervisor or your human resources representative. Bring documented instances in which your colleague has demonstrated inappropriate or unprofessional behavior or been unfairly critical of you and your work product. A manager higher up on the chain of command can offer suggestions for how to proceed from there.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.