A matter of opinion

Learn constructive ways to deal with disagreements

From football teams to health regimes, a holiday cruise to pay reviews, there’s always one topic or another up for debate. And while these passions can bond likeminded souls together, they also have the potential to rip relationships apart.

But disagreeing with a partner, family member, friend or colleague doesn’t need to end in heartache. Exchanging views is constructive. During a discussion, alternative opinions can be shared, lessons in compromise learned, negotiation skills practised, and when you make it through to the other side, you may even discover a new-found trust and respect for the person involved – and, of course, vice versa.

Difficult conversations happen every day and shouldn’t be avoided through fear that an argument will ensue. Accept the reality that not everyone is going to see eye to eye. There will always be times when you’ll disagree with someone you care for or they’ll reject an idea of yours. But this is natural and it’s healthy to have different opinions.

Keep silent and you risk going down a slippery slope of negative emotion. When you feel strongly about a subject, but won’t voice it, niggles can fester deep inside. This means you are suppressing your true thoughts and feelings, something that can create unnecessary tension and cause you to resent those around you. Be strong – you’ve every right to have your say. Debate the issue and clear the air. A battle doesn’t need to commence, not when you take control and deal with a disagreement in these positive, effective ways…

Focus on facts

During the conversation, try to concentrate on the facts – any evidence you’ve collected. Don’t simply state a series of hypothetical ‘what-ifs’. Of course it’s important to be mindful of potential consequences of an outcome, but stay on the topic. Don’t suddenly throw a curveball either, by bringing up a grudge that has nothing to do with the discussion. Okay, you’re annoyed that a colleague got promoted instead of you, but if this subject is unrelated, avoid further confrontation.

Remain calm and composed

A disagreement doesn’t need to be an argument. All you have is a conflicting opinion. There’s no reason why you should get agitated or raise your voice. Stay calm, pinpoint what the main issue is and eloquently put over your viewpoint, stating why you want it heard and considered. Try to maintain the same tone of voice throughout any discussion, even if the other person appears to be shouting. You’ll ultimately be seen as the one being more reasonable and respectful.

Learn to listen

You may be adamant that you’re in the right, but listen carefully to what the other person is saying and don’t make presumptions. Only then will you be able to understand why they believe something is the right choice or course of action. Instead of devising another cutting put-down in your mind, pay attention to what’s being said. You may surprise yourself and hear ideas that make perfect sense.

Express yourself

It’s all too easy to turn a disagreement into a personal attack, so be mindful of your language. Reflect and articulate how you feel and see a situation, rather than criticising the other person involved. Instead of announcing: ‘You never bother to read my work proposals,’ try a less accusatory option. ‘I feel undervalued when I receive no feedback on my projects,’ will encourage a colleague to deal with your concerns rather than feel compelled to defend their role. It’s also more likely to get positive results.

Bite your tongue

Always think before you speak. A relationship can be ruined in the heat of the moment, so stop, even count to 10, and don’t allow spiteful words to spill out that will stun your opponent in their tracks. There’s no going back from hurtful comments, they can last a lifetime and are best avoided. The chances are you’ve only resorted to revealing an age-old resentment because you’re feeling vulnerable. Being aggressive and causing hurt won’t get you anywhere, though. You simply risk future disagreements.

Come to a conclusion

Always try to reach an agreement. Find any common ground, then together suggest ideas to bridge the gaps. Do your best to find closure that all parties are happy with – even if that’s agreeing to disagree. But don’t allow disagreements to linger. Remember, a difference of opinion is part and parcel of every healthy relationship. When you’re next challenged, see it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Then harmony can resume.

Words: Lorna Cowan

This article was originally published in Issue 14 – Embrace the Positive

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