By Justin Bariso, Principal, EQ Applied
Reprinted with Permission

I almost killed the perfect vacation.

A couple of years ago, I was enjoying a wonderful trip with my family to the Italian coast. It was perfect: 10 days of good food, great sun, and beautiful beaches.

Then, I caught a bad cold. I considered staying behind, and let my wife hit the beach with our three little ones…but then I decided to join.

I thought we might head to the same beach we went to just a few days earlier, but my wife had a different beach in mind. We arrived, and she was in heaven: turquoise water, full of fish and great for snorkeling. Amazing views. She even found a little spot under a tree to give us shade.

I wasn’t as enthusiastic.

The shade from the tree was great, but there were no chairs—and it was far from comfortable. The sand wasn’t nearly as soft as I like. And the surf was much rougher, which certainly didn’t please my 4-year old.

I kept comparing this beach to the other one.

My mood deteriorated.

I wanted to complain.

“Why couldn’t we just have gone back to the other beach,” I thought.

But just before I launched on what would have been a definite mood-killing tirade, I remembered three very important little words:

Disagree and commit.

I had agreed to let my wife pick the beach for the day. Sure, I could complain about her choice—but what would that bring? Because of my feeling lousy, I would have found something wrong with any beach. Complaining would have just made everyone else miserable, too—and undermined my wife at the same time.

So, I did the opposite.

I looked for all the great things about the beach, and voiced them out loud.

“This water is gorgeous, honey. We haven’t seen this many fish our whole vacation. And the view is really spectacular!”

“I know,” she said, excitedly.

“Isn’t it great?”

The Lesson

That day on the beach, I avoided what could have quickly snowballed into disaster—had I not remembered those three little words:

Disagree and commit.

The phrase “disagree and commit” was popularized in the 1980s by microchip manufacturer Intel, and then later by Amazon. It’s a management principle that says the decision-making process should encourage healthy discussion and debate, and that any who disagree with a proposed idea should be able to express themselves freely and respectfully.

That’s the “disagree” part.

But next comes the “commit” part…Namely, that once a decision is made, everyone should fully support that decision—even if they didn’t agree with it in the beginning.

As you could imagine, this principle is extremely useful not just in our personal lives but in the workplace as well.

How many times have you seen great ideas get green-lit, only to fizzle out because of lack of support? The lack of enthusiasm could range from direct attacks, to indirect sabotage, to passive-aggressive comments.

But what if everyone did the opposite? What if after a decision was made, everyone gave it their enthusiastic support, trying their best to make it a success?

When companies create this type of buy-in, they build a work environment that is psychologically safe, centered on trust. And if you’re able to build a culture of trust, you’ll get the best out of your teams and relationships.

So, the next time it comes time to make a decision, and there’s just no convincing the other person to see it your way, ask yourself:

Can I disagree and commit?

If you can, you’ll strengthen your relationship and show your partner you’re willing to go all in…

encouraging them to do the same for you.

Try This

Pay close attention to all the times your opinion clashes with that of your spouse, friend, family member, or colleague, over a decision.

After you’ve expressed your point of view, and they stand by their guns, ask yourself:

Can I disagree and commit?

Just remember, if the answer’s yes, you’ve got to go all in: Give their decision enthusiastic support, trying your best to make it a success.

In Summary

If you can disagree and commit, you will:

  • avoid passive-aggressive behavior
  • promote true collaboration and build trust
  • strengthen your relationships

Use this handy worksheet to explore EQ Rule #2: Emotional Intelligence: Disagree and Commit


About the Author
Justin Bariso, Principal, EQ Applied

The founder of EQ Applied, Justin Bariso helps organizations and individuals develop their emotional intelligence. His thoughts on leadership and EQ draw over a million readers a month, and LinkedIn named him a “Top Voice” in the field of management and workplace culture three years in a row. His book, EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence, shares fascinating research, modern examples, and personal stories that illustrate how emotional intelligence works in the real world. Email: [email protected]


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