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CEO: How to disagree at work so that you're heard and understood

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and SPD Faction Leader Andrea Nahles attend a session of the SPD's Bundestag faction on the topic of recent developments in the asylum debate.
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and SPD Faction Leader Andrea Nahles attend a session of the SPD's Bundestag faction on the topic of recent developments in the asylum debate.

What is your first reaction when you encounter something you disagree with, whether at home or at work? Do you immediately run to your keyboard and start typing away? Do you feel the need to share your argument and explain your perspective?

While you may not be able to affect the points of view of public figures and politicians, in the case of your boss, co-workers, colleagues, and loved ones, new research tells us that there is a proven and effective way to communicate your disagreements, and it's not by firing off emails.

Follow the results of this research and others will be far more likely to understand and sympathize with your perspective.

What works — and what doesn't

In a study of almost 300 people, participants were asked to watch, listen to and read arguments about contentious topics, such as abortion, music and war. In each of these cases, participants were asked to judge the character of the communicator and the quality of their arguments.

The result? Participants were less dismissive of and argumentative in response to video and audio versus written text. In the more “natural” forms of communication, participants were also less likely to dehumanize and belittle the cognitive abilities and moral attributes of the person they disagreed with.

These findings tell us that we are more effective at communicating our ideas when face-to-face or voice-to-voice. These results and others have implications for all types of communication, including at the workplace.

The next time you're explaining or defending an idea to your boss or colleagues, use these two tips to make your argument heard and understood.

1. Know the counterarguments in advance

If you know why those who disagree with you believe what they do, use that knowledge to your advantage. Allow yourself to see things from their point of view. That will help you predict the arguments they will likely use. Once you have a sense of what to expect from the other person, you'll be able to plan your approach.

Also, the more well-informed you are about both sides of the disagreement, the more credible you will become.

By covering your bases and doing your prep work, you'll ensure that you will sound more reasonable, whether you have to present your argument in text or in person.

2. Meet face to face

Your first choice should always be to meet and discuss the disagreement in person. Seeing and hearing the other person can convey more than just words on a screen. The same message spoken out loud carries more meaning through its tone, execution and natural linguistic cues. A harsh-seeming text message can sound thoughtful and logical when spoken.

“Because another person's mind cannot be experienced directly, its quality must be inferred from indirect cues," the study's authors write. Those indirect cues, involving the many characteristics of the human voice, are absent in written communication.

As technology advances, it becomes easier than ever to connect with people, even those who are far away. Take advantage of your computer or smartphone cameras. If you cannot meet in person, ask for a quick video chat or phone call. When a person sees and hears your face and voice, communicating arguments can be more impactful than you may have thought. Use an e-mail or written message as a last resort.

If presenting your side in writing is your only option, though, pay close attention to the details of how your words might be misconstrued. Check your syntax for simpler sentences to avoid confusion. Avoid using extreme words like “never” and also emotionally charged words. Try to stick to fact-based statements that are clear and straightforward, and you'll find that other parties are more receptive to your ideas.

Elle Kaplan is the founder and CEO of LexION Capital, a fiduciary wealth management firm in New York City, serving high-net-worth individuals. She is also the chief investment officer and founder of LexION Alpha.

Don't miss: Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker: The No. 1 communication mistake that even smart people make

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