In my work, I have focused a great deal on how leaders often create conditions in which it becomes very difficult for individuals to express dissenting opinions. What about the dissenter? Can individuals become better at expressing dissent? Can they enhance the odds that leaders will listen and consider their views? Can they increase the odds that others in the group will not marginalize them? I believe that dissenters can become better at speaking up.
Here are a few strategies:
1. Know thy audience. Who are you trying to influence or persuade? How do they think? Are they analytical by nature, or they do make decisions more intuitively?
2. Understand the history of the issue. What events have taken place leading up to this situation? Who has been involved? Who might become defensive if I challenge the conventional wisdom here?
3. Build a coalition. Who could be my allies on this issue? How can I cultivate their support before I express my dissenting view?
4. Develop some options. If I disagree with this plan of action, I should offer some alternatives. What options might I propose? How could I invite others to propose alternatives?
5. Ask questions. Do not declare your opposition outright if that might be too threatening. Ask questions. Seek to understand, to press for clarification, to surface and test key assumptions, to encourage people to think differently about the issue.