Disagree without being disagreeable.

An e-mail group that I’m a part of recently asked the question:

‘What skill do I most value from the past year?’

How to disagree without being disagreeable.

The other day, I negotiated with a car dealer to get my car back. They had diagnosed the problem correctly, but wanted to rock a solution that would cost more than the car’s retained value.

When I wanted to get a second opinion, they decided that they wanted to charge me $125/day * 21 days (had been out of the country)

I had almost zero leverage. ​

But I walked out of there yesterday paying a grand total of $0 (I did pay them the insurance money for their diagnosis.)

How? I approached the whole thing with, as a friend had recommended, a spirit of kindness and generosity (mixed in with a little naivete and ‘I’m f'ing broke’ messaging).

I used to get upset, but now I get smart. I want to know what all the stakeholders are thinking. AND Why do they feel the way they do? The insurance company had abandoned me to the bloodthirsty dealer, but in reality, the sales rep had just been trying to cover his bottom…line. Nothing personal.

I was going to answer your question with something that sounded more tangible - how to train for a marathon poorly and then better, or how to fly a plane. But this skill - with Jobs they called it the Reality Distortion Field, and with Werner Von Braun, they said he could, ‘sell ice to eskimos’ - has been by far the most valuable.

One of my biggest learnings is that you just don’t have to be a jerk (or insert other expletive here) about it. I know I’ve written about this on this forum before, but I thought it deserved a fresh spotlight.

Buried in this for me are negotiation skills, emotional intelligence, empathy, stakeholder analysis, kindness, logic, tactics, extreme levels of strategy and preparation, and most of all - the ability to see the problem from everyone else’s point of view.

It is a skill whose lack has caused me great pain in the past, and it is a skill that I aim to never forget.

We frame being agreeable as a positive thing in society, but circumstances do not always succeed in providing me with that luxury. When I must disagree, I endeavor to do so in a way that seems somehow more elegant than the circumstances might actually dictate.

Yesterday, this skill saved me $2600+ or $1900 (given that they’d already knocked off $700). They easily could have charged me either amount, and I think, had they felt attacked or at all impugned, they would have.

But, as the English proverb would have it, You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

Thanks for listening,



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