Clients use consultants for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, they seek specialized expertise that is not readily available in house. Sometimes, they prefer to work with an external resource to help maintain confidentiality and prevent internal leaks or rumors. Sometimes, they use consultants to serve as catalysts for fresh thinking or to gain a measure of objectivity (or at least the appearance of objectivity).
Whatever the reason, every consultant will eventually face the necessity of expressing a contrary viewpoint. Now, if that’s why they hired you, then well and good. But, if not, then it’s important to learn how to express an opposing opinion in a positive way.
Here are some simple examples of how to express a contrary opinion in a thoughtful, professional way. The first one isn’t very provocative, it simply introduces another perspective. The second one is more of a challenge, but it can be softened slightly by the use of we rather than you. The third one is a forthright assertion that you disagree, feel compelled to say so, yet are nonetheless willing to move forward.
- “I understand what you are saying. Now, here is another way to look at it…”
- “Have you considered the possible consequences of this course of action?”
- “I value our relationship and I will assist you with whatever course of action you choose, but I am professionally bound to give you my honest opinion on this.”