Look, life would be a lot easier if you could just ignore things you didn’t want to deal with. Unfortunately, usually when you ignore problems, they get worse.
By addressing things head on, you have a much better chance of derailing something before it becomes big and scary and indestructible.
That’s why sometimes you have to argue. You have to disagree. And if you learn how to respectfully disagree, you stand a much better chance of working things out.
So, how do you navigate these tough waters? How do you respectfully disagree with someone so that a) your point is heard and b) you don’t get hostile? Let’s investigate:
Don’t Make It Personal
This step is the hardest one to pull off, so we’re starting here. When dealing with personal opinions, even the thickest-skinned can get offended.
That’s why it’s important to attack the opinion, not the person. “I don’t agree with that opinion,” is a whole lot easier to swallow than, “You’re wrong! You have a dumb idea.”
Remember to put a little linguistic distance between the person and their opinion.
Listen And Try To Understand
Often times, even the craziest opinions have a kernel of truth. Look for that damn kernel.
For example, this person might be trying to solve the right problem; they’re just taking the wrong approach. The kernel of truth is that there is a problem that needs to be solved.
Perhaps you can direct the conversation towards that problem and get away from the crazy solution they are presenting.
Also, stay open-minded. Their so-called “crazy solution” might actually make sense if you let them explain the whole thing.
Make Sure Your Thoughts Are Clear
While yes, it’s important to listen and stay open-minded, make sure you explain your side of things. Remember, the goal is to respectfully disagree, not respectfully listen.
If you don’t agree with someone, make sure you say that. If you have an alternative idea, make sure you present it.
If you don’t, you run the risk of the other person walking away thinking that you actually agreed with them.
Stay Off The Ropes
While you might know how to respectfully disagree, that doesn’t mean the other person does. Beware of the things that a shitty arguer might do, and have a game plan to handle them:
If they get personal, then reframe the conversation:
“Look, we’re not talking about personal stuff. Right now, we’re trying to solve this problem.”
If they keep twisting your words into weak arguments, make sure you set them straight:
“That’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is ___.”
If they’re not listening to your side of things, then remind them that the goal should be to resolve this disagreement. For that to happen, both of you need to listen to each other.
If all else fails and they’re just too punk rock to talk rationally, see if you can postpone the conversation until they’ve calmed down. “You’re upset, and I don’t want us to end up shouting at each other.
Let’s both take some time to cool down and talk about it this evening. Is that cool?” While you might not need time to cool down, it helps the other person save face.
Reaffirm How You Feel About The Person
If this person is a friend, remind them. It’s easy to get emotional during an argument and start to think that because you hate their opinion, you also hate them.
Not true (hopefully). It’s possible to deeply care about someone, 100% have their back, and just think that they are totally wrong about something. Tell them that. It will go a long way to making sure that things don’t get personal or heated.
Find A Resolution
Keep in mind that the goal of any battle is to form a resolution. Sometimes, resolutions are easy: “Hey, wanna go ice skating?” “Yeah.” “Awesome!”
But, sometimes they take an argument.
Keep in mind that the goal here isn’t to “win”; it’s to resolve things. Look for opportunities to find a middle ground and build from there. If there isn’t much of a middle ground, try your best to understand how they feel. Include it in a solution.
Above all, don’t force a solution onto someone else, and never, ever accept a solution that is being forced on you.
For resolution to happen, both of you need to feel like it’s the right outcome. If you can respectfully disagree with someone, you’re a lot more likely to find that.