"You can disagree without being disagreeable." - Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar.
Disagreement, whether with a client (or your boss) can be very healthy and helpful as long as you present your point in a positive and agreeable way. General George Patton once said, "If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
It's not unusual to shy away from disagreeing with your client. However, disagreements in working with a client can be very healthy and helpful. Most people find that they appreciate having alternative points of view as they strive to make a decision.
Disagreement is not about being right verses wrong. Disagreement can be very helpful as long as you present your point in a positive and agreeable way.
Is The Client Wrong?
Before getting into a discussion with your client to tell them that they’re wrong, ask yourself, “Is the client wrong to begin with?” Just because you don’t agree with the direction they requested of you doesn’t necessarily mean it is not correct for the project. Consider that while you have a better approach, it's not the case that you are right and they are wrong.
This is the most important thing you can do to keep a conversation on track. It can be a challenge to stay calm and rational when you feel angry or passionate about something, especially if the person you're talking with feels equally angry or passionate. Try to make sure the conversation stays focused on facts and not on anything personal. You may need to manage the conversation and make an effort to stay calm. In turn, you staying calm will likely have a calming effect on the other person.
Give Options Not Objections
If you can’t think up a better idea than what your client offered, then what is the purpose is the disagreement? You might not like the presented idea. However if you can’t come up with something to replace it with, then you must go with what they requested.
Provide suggestions that your client sees as actions, not just objections. Instead of pointing out that their suggestion is wrong, promise you will provide alternative solutions. Demonstrate how your suggestions are a better approach to addressing the project, and how they will still work to address the client's goals.
Back Up Your Suggestions with Evidence
If your client is not persuaded by your arguments, produce evidence that backs up your recommendations. This evidence can come in many forms such as articles and blog posts from respected experts, testimonials from other clients for whom you have worked on a similar project, or provide well-known cases where the same thing you are suggesting was tried and had positive results. To make a strong case against your opposition, it's important that you do and present your research.
When They Still Want to Proceed With Their Plan
In the end, they are your client: It’s their business and decision to make. The best you can do is offer your professional advice and clearly lay out concerns before agreeing to do the work. Then, move forward to do the best for your client with the plan that is now set in place.
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