How to disagree with people properly
We’ve all been there, right? Walking steadily through our day, getting along with those around us, when BAM! We hit an impasse and we cannot agree with our partner, friend, colleague, child, over a particular issue. It could be big, it could be small, but we get our back up and end up fighting over it. What started out as a normal activity or situation has now turned into a war zone. Your defenses are up and you fight your corner because you know your right. Sound familiar? John and I had one such situation like that this week – I’ll explain later – and it got me thinking about how to disagree with people properly. What should we do to alleviate conflict and show maturity in disagreement?
Disagreements happen to us all
So John and I had a disagreement this week. We decided to move our living room furniture around to see how it would look in a different configuration. Nothing life-changing! But it turned into a heated disagreement nonetheless.
Our first mistake was starting late in the afternoon. So a few hours in and we were hungry and tired. This is when the differing viewpoints on the arrangement of the sofas hit. I liked it one way, John another and we both had valid reasons for our opinion. But instead of trying to problem-solve our way out, our emotions got the better of us and tensions rose. Eventually, I decided to leave John to move the sofas about some more while I made dinner and in the end discovered that the solution was the tiniest of position tweaks that solved both our disputes.
Our external issues to the disagreement got in the way of thinking clearly and an issue that wasn’t that important in the grand scheme of things was allowed to get out of proportion.
What did we learn? Don’t re-arrange furniture late on a Saturday afternoon!
Some other tips on how to disagree with people properly
Don’t make it personal
It’s so important that when you are in disagreement with someone that you keep it about the issue at hand. Making it personal by bringing in their beliefs or personal idiosyncrasies is hurtful, unnecessary, and unkind. Using sarcasm, foul language, or derogatory comments lowers the tone and ups the antagonism. It doesn’t resolve the disagreement and will only add fuel to the fire. Remember this: when given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.
This can be difficult when you’re in a heated argument. But allowing your base nature to rear its ungainly head doesn’t help you resolve the issue. When we stay calm we are able to think more clearly, disable the tension more effectively and leave the conflict feeling clear-headed rather than angry, resentful and grumpy. We can reflect on the situation and maybe think about how to avoid it in the future.
Listen to the other person
How often do we get blinkers on when we are in disagreement with someone? All we can think about is fighting our corner and imposing our opinion on the other person. What we fail to realise is that listening can lead to resolution, understanding, and shows respect for the other person. When you are an active listener you are more likely to receive the same treatment in return. Listening also challenges your need for defensive strategy. Instead of thinking about what you want to say next to them, you are focusing on what they are saying to you, and taking in their reasons. You can then reiterate what you have heard and calmly state why you disagree. When we know how to disagree properly, we can be respectful and kind to people, seeking resolutions rationally.
Use ‘I’ statements
Often in an argument, we focus on the other person and how they are imposing upon us and how we think their ideas are wrong by using the stabbing word ‘you’. You keep doing… You always… You cannot seriously think… Instead, we could try turning those stabbing statements around and deflecting how we feel off of ourselves. I feel really pressured because… I understand your frustration, however… I hear what you’re saying but can we please try… It might just diffuse the tension and stop the feeling that you are attacking each other.
Communication in any relationship is of paramount importance. It doesn’t matter if it’s romantic, familial, friendly, or professional, if we don’t communicate effectively we can guarantee that a disagreement isn’t too far away. If you cannot communicate how you feel without worrying about repercussions then I would question why you are allowing that relationship to continue. When we know we can communicate in a safe, loving, or respectful environment we are less likely to arrive at an impasse and are able to navigate disagreements more effectively.
Get to the root of the issue
Sometimes an argument isn’t really about what you’re arguing about. Often little things can begin to accumulate and then the last straw breaks and rational thinking disintegrates. If you are concerned someone is getting emotional over something seemingly insignificant, you might want to dig a little deeper and question what they are really upset about. Be patient, understanding, and make space for them to express how they feel. If you are a part of the problem, look for ways to change your behaviour to make your life a little easier.
Find the middle ground
Compromise. Every relationship requires a little compromise to oil the wheels and keep yourself moving forward together. Making your relationships work means looking out for the other’s needs and coming to decisions that you can both agree upon without sacrificing who you fundamentally are. Finding the middle ground is so important in how to disagree with people properly. If you are all out for yourself, then your selfishness will break what you have built.
Choose your battles
Some arguments are just not worth it! Learn to let go of the small stuff and agree to disagree. Believe me, the important things will come up soon enough and if you are constantly arguing over insignificant details, you’ll find that coping with the big things is insurmountable. Learn to concede, accept what isn’t going to be important next week, and live in peace. You are your own person and you won’t agree on absolutely everything with everyone. If we did we’d be robots. Learn to accept people for who they are, and don’t try to make them conform to your thinking. Individuality is what makes us unique.
Learning how to disagree with people properly is such an important skill. It promotes understanding, respect, and love for your fellow humans and allows us to have our voice heard.
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