Do you agree that you are disagreeable?

If you were described my a male or female colleague as disagreeable, would or should you be offended?

Let start with a definition of agreeableness and the science of personality traits! Conventional personality research defines agreeableness as two related qualities: (1) the extent to which you value getting along with others, and (2) the degree to which you are willing to be critical of others.

According to Harvard Ark Markman in his blog “Are successful people nice” Research showed that men who rank high in agreeableness make substantially less than men who are less agreeable. Across studies, this difference was as high as $10,000 per year. Conversely, women's earnings were less affected. There was only a small earnings difference between women high and low in agreeableness, and it was often not statistically reliable.

Just as there are stereotypes for women, there is a stereotype that when men lead, they make decisions without concern for what other people think. In a study when people were asked to evaluate potential leadership candidates. Agreeable men were rated least attractive as potential leaders.

I think in this debate we need to dig a little deeper, not just on the traits affecting potential for leadership in males or females but in how these traits are shown.

For me it’s not about whether I am agreeable or not in any discussion, it’s about if I choose to be disagreeable (whatever the reasons) it’s about HOW I show my disagreeableness. In my job I cover many roles from , consultant, trainer, speaker, facilitator, trusted advisor, I have had to, on many occasions disagree or give negative feedback, or have difficult conversations with females and males, older and in positions of authority. It’s just part of the job.

I think the trick lies in firstly being clear on your intention towards the recipient, the why you disagree, then deciding on what I have to say (making sure I have clear evidence or examples) and then the how I say it. Your comment can be personal (because it needs to be) but the trick is the verbal balance in how to deliver your message without the subject taking it personal and getting defensive. Leaders must learn the art of verbal charisma, they must also be able to dance in linguistic conflict and have the confidence to be disagreeable when required.

On our Top Women programmes we cover verbal charisma and how women need to be very aware of their conversational style especially around men.

Women or Male Leaders must never fall into the nice trap. Disagreeableness is part of the leader’s job and it’s something all women leaders must get comfortable with. So do we all agree that being disagreeable is agreeable? :)

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