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Hot Topics: When to Agree to Disagree

Tuesday, October 16, 2018 8:18 AM

Whether it is in the workplace or at a gathering with family and friends, there may come a time when you disagree with someone. If not approached appropriately, feelings can be hurt and blood pressures can boil. It is best to view these disagreements as conversations, rather than arguments or battles. To help us save our sanity, Lara Jakobsons, PhD, Psychologist at NorthShore, shares ways to approach conversations in a level-headed way.

  • Pick your battles. Choosing to disagree with every topic of conversation will give you a reputation of being argumentative – or even judgmental. Ask yourself, “Is this topic important enough to be addressed?” Make sure the area of discussion is of substance and can be constructive.
  • Don’t make it personal. Disagreements should be made based on facts, not on how you feel about the person you are talking to.
  • Validate. During the conversation, it is important to validate the opinion of the person whom you are speaking with. Let them know that you empathize and reflect back on why they feel a certain way or believe something to be true. 
  • Hear the person speak; don’t just wait for your turn to talk. Listen to what they are saying and try to understand how or why they feel the way they do. When they are done talking, repeat back talking points to be sure you understand what was said before you carry on the conversation. 
  • Ask questions, but do not interrogate. Throwing out a series of questions to try and trip up or confuse the person you are conversing with is aggressive and poor manners. Asking a well thought out question is a gentle way to find fault in a disagreement.
  • Know when enough is enough. The goal of these conversations is not to “win,” but to understand the opposing view better and to help clear the air. If the conversation is based on opinions and values, listen to the other side but agree to disagree as you both will feel strongly about your personal belief or values. If it becomes clear that no one will change their opinions or emotions escalate, suggest ending the conversation for the time being.
  • Focus on what was achieved, rather than what was lost. Both parties should validate what was achieved and observe the kernel of truth in both opinions so the conversation can be viewed as beneficial and a “win” for everyone.

How do you remain positive in disagreements with friends, family or coworkers?