If you’re in any kind of relationship with another person, chances are you’re going to have some disagreements with them at one stage or another. You’ll never find another person that agrees with you 100% of the time. Not even the person you’re the closest with. So, in this post, I’m sharing 9 ideas to remember when dealing with disagreements in your relationships.
Since disagreements and conflict are part of life, growing your ability to deal with disagreements effectively is a pretty good idea and use of your time.
It’s a transferable skill that you can use in many parts and areas of your life, whether at home or in your professional life.
Developing your ability for dealing with disagreements will help you solve a lot of challenges and avoid any issues along the way, rather than get stuck in or bogged down by situations where there are conflicting points of view or different perspectives.
We live in a world where everyone has access to everyone else, which means there is a massive and instant transference of ideas and perspectives between people from all parts of life, all the time.
The challenge for most of us is to navigate this rocky terrain, and the likelihood of encountering opposite (even hostile) perspectives a lot is very likely.
But by the same token, we cannot get stuck every time someone disagrees with us about something.
We definitely cannot get stuck every time we have a disagreement with those close to us, for example in our love relationships.
Our partners need to be able to disagree with us without the fear of emotional or relational breakdown because self-expression is extremely important for our own psychological and relational well-being.
Therefore, learning some ideas for dealing with this agreement and applying to your situation, could be an extremely valuable thing to do.
Here are 9 ideas for dealing with disagreement:
Decide if the situation is worth a disagreement.
Sometimes you just have to weigh up the situation and decide whether it is worth the disagreement.
In my opinion, not everything is worth fighting about.
In fact, when it comes to differences of opinion and perspective, it is almost never worth having the disagreement because many people aren’t really open for a different perspective from their own.
Consequently, you end up in a dialogue where a lot of words and thoughts are used back and forth, with nobody actually hearing each other.
You have to ask yourself, does it really matter now if your partner did or did not say a particular thing five years ago?
Some things just don’t matter, and others are simply a matter of opinion.
It’s okay if spouse thinks Cadbury’s tastes better than Whitakers (… it doesn’t btw).
Ensure that you understand what the other person is saying.
A lot of disagreements are the result of some misunderstanding.
And it’s easy to misunderstand because a lot of people don’t listen to understand but rather to reply.
And because that is true for many, there might not actually be a disagreement at all.
It is just because someone didn’t understand what the other person was saying.
So, a good rule of thumb is, before you open your mouth, clarify what the other person is saying.
You might be pleasantly surprised to discover that there’s nothing to argue about.
Good active listening skills are perhaps the most important conflict-resolution skills you can possess.
And it starts with you attempting to understand first, before responding.
Monitor your emotions.
I’ve talked about managing your emotions so many times in the past.
It is really at the heart of most conflict management strategies.
If you want to deal with disagreements much more effectively, you must learn to start noticing when some emotional arousal is starting to happen.
For example, if your anger is beginning to grow, your heart rate is increasing (10% or above), your tone is changing, and so on, you need to recognise the signs as a pending eruption.
This is important because when your emotions are running high, your ability to make rational decisions goes out the window.
This is probably more physiological and psychological.
And when your brain has identified a potential threat, and it goes into fight or flight mode, your ability to tap into the part of your brain that is responsible for higher levels of thinking is severely impeded.
So, when that happens, either learn to calm yourself (for example, deep breaths) or walk away until you’ve cooled off (for at least 30 minutes).
Avoid making it personal.
There’s a difference between saying, “I think what you’re saying is inaccurate” versus “Only an idiot would think that.”
We need to relearn the ability in today’s world to disagree with others respectfully.
Just because you have a different point of view is no reason to make a personal.
Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of people lack the ability to disagree intelligently and respectfully, and therefore rely on personal attacks to either prop themselves up or get their point across.
But, ironically, in doing that they only succeed to discredit themselves even further.
A key idea for avoiding disagreements is to learn to address the words or behaviour or point of discussion, WITHOUT attacking the person.
Making it personal not only discredit you but it also quickly escalates the situation and renders the conversation pointless.
Choose the right time to raise concern.
Another important idea I’ve pointed out many times is timing.
Knowing when to raise a concern or discuss an issue, and when not to, is sometimes a difference between successfully resolving something or widening the rift.
For example, a family reunion is NOT the right time to address your personal household budget and differences in spending philosophy.
Some people love airing their dirty laundry in front of others, like family, but it’s the worst idea and a very impractical and ineffective strategy for dealing with disagreements.
You only end up breaking whatever connection is left with the person, while escalating the already existing conflict.
If you want to be effective in dealing with disagreements, then be reasonable and give the other person as much warning as possible.
It takes nothing to say something like, “I’d like to discuss the issue between you and my sister. Can we talk about it tonight?”
And then honour that until the designated and more appropriate time.
Be willing to walk away if things get out of hand.
There’s a time to move forward and a time to retreat.
And there’s no harm in calling a timeout and trying again tomorrow.
In fact, I would urge you to start using timeouts a lot more effectively.
Especially in your love relationship or marriage.
The basic reason for that is that nobody is able to rationally and effectively resolve important issues when they are in a heightened state of emotional arousal.
Moreover, when things get too heated, the potential damage is increased and most of the time is not worth it in the long run.
So, start paying attention to your own emotional state when you’re disagreeing about something, and notice when others are getting agitated too.
Once there is a real threat for things to get out of hand, be willing to walk away.
That doesn’t mean that you won’t come back to the table to resolve things later.
It simply means that you give each other permission to retreat, recompose themselves, before returning to the table.
Agree on the purpose of the disagreement.
Another important idea for dealing with disagreements is to agree on the purpose of this agreement early on.
Is the purpose to be right or to determine the truth?
Or is the purpose to find common middle ground?
What is the point of disagreeing in this instance?
Because if you both have the same objective, it will be much easier to work through points of difference AND to find a solution that makes both of you happy in the end.
Some people, however, simply disagree for the sake of disagreeing.
They just have to have a different opinion.
But that’s pointless.
Use an effective vehicle for dealing with disagreements.
I have learned that disagreements or conflicts are always resolved with a personal chat and/or a cup of coffee.
The issue is that a lot of people, me included, oftentimes want to resolve things via less effective means, like email or texting.
In the past, I’ve been caught in long, dragged out, heated email conversations trying to resolve issues with someone, but failing.
And it was only after a phone call and having a conversation, that things were easily resolved within a matter of minutes.
The lesson I’ve learned is that we all have issues we’re dealing with that can get in the way of our relationships with others.
But what intensifies that even more, is when we use ineffective vehicles to try and resolve disagreements or conflict.
And even though technology is great for fast communication and many other things, experience has taught me that dealing with disagreements is not one of them.
Use an effective vehicle or strategy for dealing with disagreements as that can oftentimes make or break the whole thing.
Allow the other person to save face.
I feel very strongly about this particular point.
Just because you’re disagreeing with someone doesn’t mean that you should launch personal attacks or disrespect that person.
Why has this become acceptable in society today?
We have so many keyboard warriors and self-proclaimed experts that don’t really seem to care all that much about the well-being of others.
They care about being right and getting their point across.
Irrespective of whether they have no idea what they talk about is not.
Everyone has a voice.
And everyone has the means to share that voice.
But it does seem like we need to relearn the ability to deal with disagreements with kindness.
We need to allow the person we’re disagreeing with to save face.
So, if someone backs themselves into a corner, give them a chance to get out without losing face.
Give the other person enough space to avoid feeling embarrassed.
What do you gain by embarrassing someone just because you have a different point of view, that just so happens, to be more accurate in this one instance?
Because next time you will be on the receiving end.
But we forget that too quickly it seems.
There is no problem with disagreeing.
That’s what makes a human.
We have different perspectives on the world.
It is normal and to be expected.
But how we choose to treat other people who disagree with us is a choice.
And each of us must make that choice wisely.
Because what goes around does tend to come around.
The world is full of people, and it isn’t always possible to get along 100% of the time.
Each disagreement is an opportunity to either improve or degrade a relationship.
Dealing with disagreements well also creates possibility.
And having strong skills in this area of life can be truly invaluable.
Therefore, seek to find common ground in your disagreements and keep the argued point in perspective while upholding the worth of the other person as much as you can.