When Disagreements Happen
We all have disagreements from time to time. During elections, pandemics, or gardening season you’re more likely to have controversial disagreements with people.
There are ways you can have disagreements where both people walk away feeling seen, heard, understood, and human. Then there’s the other way.
Our guidelines say we always strive for connection & building bridges between divergent thoughts & ideas. Here’s a quick break down of how to do that.
- Assume positive intent – No matter what you think the other person is saying, assume there is a positive intent behind their words.
- Accept that your perception of the other person is wrong – when we disagree about something that is intrinsically important to us, human nature puts that other person into the ‘other’ category. That category is a little less human, a little less worthy. When we accept that our opinion of the other person is wrong, we’re more likely to listen.
- Clarify – ask a question related to what you think the other person is saying. “What I hear you saying is…is that what you mean?”
- Find something you agree about – no matter how far apart you think your opinions arrest here’s a point where you agree. Find that point. Start there. Make sure you’re both in agreement, then you can move on to your perspective.
- Request the other person listen – “We both agree about [x]. I have a different perspective about [y]. Would you be open to talking about this with me?”
- Respect their response – There are many, many reasons someone may not want to talk. If someone says ‘No’, then respect hat wish and don’t force it.
- It’s okay to ask more questions – Keep questions as an invitation. Especially with the written word this decreases perceived aggression. “If you’re open to sharing, what’s the barrier to having this conversation with me?”
- Share your perspective – When sharing your perspective, avoid words that dehumanize others. This includes blanket statements about a group or type of person. Stick to the facts & feelings you have about the topic.
- Be open to questions – questions often feel like a challenge. This can be hard. Do your best to work through the steps above when receiving questions.
These steps aren’t always easy – even harder when the situation is emotionally charged. If in doubt, reach out to someone else to support you – or have them ask connecting questions on your behalf. It’s okay to sit it out while someone else takes on the emotional labour of building bridges.
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