Learn How to Disagree Agreeably

October 28, 2011

“Here lies the body of William Jay,

Who died maintaining his right of way—

He was right, dead right, as he sped along,

But he’s just as dead as if he were wrong.”

Dale Carnegie included the above epitaph in his legendary book, “How To Win Friends and Influence People.” The moral of the story is that you may be right, dead right, as you speed along in your argument; but as far as changing the other person’s mind is concerned, you will probably be just as futile as if you were wrong.

In the book, Carnegie tells the story of Frederick S. Parsons, as income-tax consultant who had been disputing and wrangling for an hour with a government tax inspector. An item of $9,000 was at stake. Parsons claimed that this nine thousand was in reality a bad debt, that it would never be collected, and that it ought not to be taxed.

The inspector retorted, “Bad debt, my eye! It must be taxed!”

Parsons knew that the longer he argued, the more stubborn the inspector became. So he decided to avoid arguing, change the subject, and give the inspector appreciation by saying, “I suppose that this is a very petty matter in comparison with the really important and difficult decisions you are required to make. I’ve made a study of taxation myself, but I’ve had to get my knowledge from books. You are getting yours from the firing line of experience. I sometimes wish I had a job like yours. It would teach me a lot.”

The inspector straightened up in his chair, leaned back, and talked for a long time about his work, telling Parsons about the clever frauds he had uncovered. His tone gradually became friendly; and he began telling Parsons about his children. When he left, he advised Parsons that he would consider his problem further, and give him his decision in a few days.

Three days later the inspector informed Parsons that he had decided to leave the tax return exactly as it was filed.

You can gain a lot from people who have different opinions, if you can learn to view these situations as learning opportunities and deal with them in an agreeable and professional way.

Learn more about how to disagree agreeably by registering for Dale Carnegie Training’s Disagree Agreeably – Workshop, to be held at the Meridian Corporate Plaza 2 in Indianapolis on Monday, November 14.

This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Central Indiana, providers of professional development and management development courses and information in Indiana. We would love to connect with you on Facebook.

Photo credit: digitalart

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