Can You Disagree Without Being Disagreeable?

Can you disagree with someone and not come to blows? Not raise your voice? Not think they are stupid? Avoid having them think that you are stupid?

We seem to be ready to go to opposite corners these days. Managing conflict well requires a set of skills. How the issue is handled is often more critical than the issue itself. Learning how to speak your mind requires a clear set of some rules of engagement. No hitting, no spitting, no threats of bodily harm! You don’t have to pick up your ‘bat and ball’ and vow never to return. We all can manage friction better with some clear guidelines.

Pick the Hill: You don’t have to jump into the ring every time you get annoyed or irritated. If the issue is one that really matters you should definitely speak up.

Get Clarity: Sometimes it’s important to get clarity on what the real issue is for the other person so ask to be sure. They may be annoyed that you are late but the issue is really that they don’t feel that you respect them (because if you did, you’d be on time.)

Sip the Soup, Cool the Soup: Inhaling and exhaling is a good way to take a beat and calm down. When things get emotional, conversations can get tense.

Own It: Talk about your own feelings, thoughts and opinions. Your side of things can be about your reaction rather than their action.

Don’t Take It Personally: During disagreement, it can feel like the other person is saying negative things about you. Try to keep the conversation focused on the issue, not the person.

Use Facts: If you have the facts, name your source. We can come to different conclusions about the facts, but facts don’t have versions.

Get Off Stage: Disagreements with an audience can be embarrassing. Onlookers can create a situation where the conversation can escalate or embarrass. Go somewhere where you have privacy.

Common Ground: Where there is common ground, there is a foundation to build on. Find a reason to build something.

Aim to Hear & Be Heard:  It may be that the conversation ends in détente. It’s more important to focus on mutual understanding.

Words Matter: Watch the language you use. Absolute statements (always, never) can put someone on the defensive.

When you don’t agree the conversation doesn’t need to become harsh. Agree partially (I agree with you to a point but –). Soften the disagreement (I’m sorry, I can’t agree with that.) Employ a general doubt (I don’t know if that makes sense.) Avoid the negative (I don’t think that I can agree with you).

Get better at speaking up and you’ll be able to turn conflict into conversation.

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