"Conflict cannot survive without your participation." - Wayne Dyer
Every relationship has moments where disagreements arise. Some relationships are more laden with disagreements than others.
What do you do when your partner supports a political philosophy or candidate that is the polar opposite of your philosophy?
How do you reconcile different religious beliefs among family members?
How can you work for a boss who treats you and your co-workers disrespectfully?
How do you come to terms with your partner about how to discipline your children?
How do you co-parent your children with an ex-partner without fighting?
These scenarios represent just a few of the more challenging ones that life can throw at you, that can create strife.
No matter what the conflict may be, the same strategies and “rules of engagement” can apply in any type of relationship. Here are a few strategies to use in any disagreement or conflict. Agreeing to disagree agreeably, is an important skill to learn and one that must be rooted in respect in order to be successful.
1. Take a few deep breaths.
Taking a moment to breathe deeply will give you a little space to feel your emotions without reacting to them. It will also help to slow down the body’s physical response to perceived stress and conflict, lowering the fight or flight response (lowering your heart rate and blood pressure for example). Remember, while you cannot control your thoughts and associated feelings, you CAN control how you respond to them. How you choose to act is always a conscious choice. It is important to ACT calmly while NOT REACTING harshly. Step back a moment to see the bigger picture. It is always best to give a calm response later than to counter-attack immediately with cutting words.
2. It is not personal.
When someone is angry or vigorously disagreeing with you, it is more a reflection of their perceptions about life, than it is about you. They may be projecting prior hurts, disappointments, and rejections onto you that are not based in reality. You are only responsible for your own emotions, not theirs, no matter what their perception may be. It is not about you.
3. Connect with the person in a meaningful way.
Behind hateful or hurtful words, there is a person. If they are a loved one, partner, or your child, remember that you love them. Looking into their eyes will help you to connect with them and see beyond their hurt. If appropriate, a gentle touch or pat on the arm, or in a work setting a handshake can help you to connect on a human level.
Ask the person to clarify exactly what the issue is as they see it. Repeat your understanding of what they just said in your own words, but calmly. For example: “What I am understanding is that you feel….is that right?”
5. Share your feelings without attempting to persuade.
Letting the person know where you are coming from without trying to persuade them that you are right, will create less resistance and more movement toward common ground.
6. Treat the person in the way that you would like to be treated.
Would you like someone to bully, persuade, or discredit you when you disagree with them? Be respectful and try to walk in their shoes for just a moment. It will be easier to understand their position if you listen with empathy and without judgement.
7. Look for common ground and build a solution.
If you either step back to see the bigger picture or move in to see closer details, there is almost always some common ground in which both parties can agree. You must be willing to shift your view to find it.
8. Realize that everyone is doing the best they can with their current level of understanding.
While others may have a different understanding than you do, they are usually doing the best they can with the limited knowledge that they currently have, no matter how dysfunctional it may be. Those with limited knowledge often resist you out of feelings of insecurity. To find common ground, you must go to their level of understanding, not yours.
9. Let things settle.
Sometimes, planting seeds of more information or a different view point is all that you can do. Although the person may reject your views right now, they may open their mind to new information at a later time. Wait to see what grows. You may be surprised.
10. Respectfully agree to disagree.
Assure the person that you respect them and that it is okay to not agree on everything. Keep in mind that if their position on an issue is one that your moral compass cannot abide, it may be best to withdraw yourself from the company of that person. Sometimes removing yourself for your own physical and emotional safety is all that you can do. That is okay too. It is better to be alone and safe, than to go down an emotionally dark path accompanied by someone with toxic behaviors.