How to deal with disagreement in three easy steps.

Breathe, deeply.

Okay, you’ve just realized that you disagree with someone and you can’t just walk away. You disagree with your wife, father, brother, co-worker, boss, neighbor or best friend. Whatever the nature of your relationship, you have to cope with this disagreement. You’re going to have to face this person again, and you’re going to have to work with them. So what do you do? Do you end the relationship because of the disagreement? Do you quit your job? Do you stop talking to your parents? Do you file for divorce? Well, those are options, but it’s more likely that the relationship is important enough to maintain. How do you move forward?disagreement1

First, let me start by telling you about my unique perspective on this. I have spent almost three years of my life in a submarine, sailing through the Pacific. For up to 90 days at a time, I would live, work, study, exercise, and sleep with over 150 other people in a small ship. We could never be out of vocal range. We would sit for hours in front of computer screens in the dark, in a tiny closet, elbows to elbows. If we disagreed about politics, or social issues, or religion, there was no escape. We couldn’t quit. We couldn’t walk away. We were forced to cope. There was not another option. So here’s three quick steps to dealing with disagreement.

Acknowledgment

First, acknowledge that you have a disagreement. Tell the person in a calm and slow tone that you disagree with their opinion. Don’t use judgment words. State the disagreement in a way that describes the differences in your opinions.

If I understand you correctly, you think that bananas are better when they’ve got a few brown speckles on them. I disagree. I believe that they taste better when they still have some green on the peel.

Acceptance

It’s okay to have differences of opinions. Even on things you are passionate about. Now that you’ve acknowledged the disagreement, you have to accept the other person’s opinion. It’s not the same as your opinion, and maybe they are completely and factually wrong, but you can’t convince them. You must accept the limit of your ability to influence them. Modern science has not, as of yet, (thankfully) created a way for one person to control the thoughts of another. Understand that their experiences and beliefs have led them to have a different conclusion than you.

I accept that I cannot change your opinion. You and I will, for the near future, at least, have to accept that we disagree. This disagreement isn’t going to cause catastrophic or extreme danger. We can move forward on our goals.

Commit to moving forward

At this point, it’s necessary to reaffirm the commitment to the relationship and the goals that you have in common with this person. This is where you both agree to continue to move forward, together.

While we may disagree on the best time to eat a banana, we still have to do these other things together.

When you and the other person can agree to move forward, you must continue to respect them. Avoid judgment words. Avoid being passive aggressive. Don’t let your disappointment in them in one area affect how you feel about them in other areas. Tell them that you appreciate them for the other aspects of your relationship. Remain calm if the contentious topic comes up again, but in general, try to avoid it. If you must bring it up again, ask them first if they would be open to revisiting it.

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