How to Handle Disagreements
Posted by Todd Smith
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How do you feel when someone disagrees with you? Do you feel attacked or offended? Does your posture change? Do you immediately feel the urge to respond and prove that you are right, or do you want to withdraw?
How do you feel when someone not only disagrees with you, but also makes negative or derogatory comments about your position?
When people disagree with our thinking, our natural tendency is to become defensive, often causing destructive results to people on both sides of the issue.
One of the skills we should all strive to master in our personal and professional lives is how to properly handle ourselves when we disagree with another person.
Disagree With Respect and Consideration
When it is necessary to disagree, you should always consider how the other person is going to feel and address the situation with respect and humility. When you are thoughtful in the way in which you disagree, you enjoy the following benefits:
- People will be more open to your point of view.
- People’s respect for you will grow.
- People will be more willing to share their opinions in the future.
- You will appear more professional and mature.
- You will feel better about yourself.
- Your emotions are less likely to turn negative.
- You will have more productive conversations.
On the other hand, when you lack humility and fail to show respect when expressing your disagreement, you will likely experience the following consequences:
- You offend and hurt others.
- You will be viewed as being egotistical.
- You run the risk of damaging a relationship.
- If you end up being wrong, you appear stupid or uninformed.
- If you truly care for others, you end up feeling bad and later apologizing.
- Your attitude will turn negative because your emotions are negative
- People will be less supportive of your ideas, decisions, and points of view.
Pick Your Battles Wisely
The best advice I can offer is this: Do not dispute things that aren’t truly important to you. The day I stopped trying to debate every little thing was the day all my relationships improved and my life became more enjoyable. My marriage improved. My relationships with my children improved. My friendships grew deeper, and my work environment became more comfortable.
The next time you disagree with someone’s position, ask yourself, “Does it really matter? Do I need to point out why I think the other person is wrong?” If so, “What do I hope to accomplish?”
I have discovered that 90 percent of the time I disagree with someone, the upside of debating the issue is not worth the downside.
Seek to Understand
If the subject is one that is important, here’s what I have found works best. Before stating your position, ask questions with a tone of respect, humility, and genuine desire to learn how the other person reached his or her conclusion.
Here are some examples:
- Why do you feel that way?
- How did you reach that conclusion?
- How do you feel about…(something they may not have considered).
- Have you thought about…(something they may not have considered).
- How would you handle…(something that may go wrong).
By asking questions with the sincere desire to understand the other person’s point of view, you will enjoy these benefits:
- You will understand how the other person reached his or her decision.
- You may change your opinion, based on the new information.
- The other person may realize his or her position is flawed without you ever having to express your disagreement.
- The questions may help both of you reach a conclusion different than what each of you originally thought.
- You will be able to discuss the subject without anyone feeling defensive.
Protect Your Relationships
If you end up still disagreeing after having discussed the subject, handle yourself with dignity and class. We are as different on the inside as we look on the outside. We all have different life experiences that cause us to view situations differently. And always remember, that what may be logical to you may not be logical to others.
Just because we may think we are right, does not necessarily mean the other person is wrong. There have been many times when I was convinced I was right, later to learn I was wrong.
Also keep in mind that disagreeing can take on many different forms. In addition to heated discussions or arguments, it could be as simple as giving people feedback on something they’ve done, ignoring a point they have made, or even showing disapproval through your body language.
Let me also encourage you to avoid expressing your disagreement through email or text messages. If you value your relationships, discuss opposing points of view in person. If that is not possible, then discuss them over the phone.
The next time you find yourself disagreeing with another person, ask, “Is this subject important to me?” If it is, ask questions with a genuine desire to understand the other person’s position. If you can’t reach an agreement, then be proud of the way you handle yourself.
Disagreements are inevitable. Handle yours tactfully: show respect for the other person’s position, listen patiently to all points and, above all, protect your relationship.
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