My best girlfriend is someone I can always count on. We share mutual interests: nature, hiking, protecting the environment and wildlife. But there’s one thing we profoundly disagree on: Trump. She’s a big fan and I just can’t stomach our president.
On a few occasions we’ve had heated disagreements to the point of yelling. I know this same contention is happening everywhere. So now, my friend and I have decided to not discuss this subject any longer, which is a good thing, but also sad that we can’t express our differences in a civil manner.
Conflict is an innate part of life. In every arena, including individuals, families, businesses, community’s governments and countries, the ability to disagree respectfully is essential to getting along. Unfortunately, in the current environment, this has become harder and harder to do.
Disagreeing isn’t an issue; it’s the manner in which it’s conducted that aggravates tensions. Because the very nature of disagreeing is to be at odds with another party, discussions can often be ripe for incivility, which makes progress impossible. If the discussion turns into an argument over who is right or one party begins attacks on character or beliefs, then the matter at hand is lost.
Learning to disagree in a respectful manner can lead to more empathy, greater understanding, less stress, more productivity and an opportunity to find solutions. But we can’t change everything at once.
We need to examine our mindset and motivation. Are we sincerely prepared to communicate points of view or are we just trying to be right no matter what? The answer may expose whether or not we’re capable of agreeing respectfully. I try to stick with the facts. There’s no place for mudslinging if discussions turn conflictive. The tone of voice can help as well. Trying to keep emotions in check is not easy but goes a long way.
A simple strategy is to breathe before you speak. The almost immediate outcomes include increased patience, added perspective and an extra perk of more gratitude and respect from others. This involves nothing more than pausing; taking a deep breath after the person to whom you are speaking is finished. The gap before answering may seem long but it’s actually just a moment.
If you observe the conversations around you, most people are not really listening but waiting for their chance to respond. This harried form of conversation encourages us to overreact, misinterpret meaning and form opinions before the other person is finished talking.
Taking a breath before reacting will allow the other person to feel listened to and you’ll sense a much calmer, less rushed feeling between the two of you.