How to Respectfully Disagree

All relationships experience conflict. Disagreements cause stress for everyone, even those with a healthy emotional intelligence. Whether it’s romantic, professional, or familial, navigating a disagreement with respect is a sure sign of personal growth and maturity.

BEST WAYS… TO DO IT POORLY

Conflict is often uncomfortable at best, and it is easy to fall into poor habits. However, we can learn to converse respectfully and constructively disagree. If you identify with any of these disagreement no-no’s, it would be wise to reconsider your approach. The best ways to disagree poorly include making a disagreement any of the following:

  • Personal – Do you find it challenging to separate the issue from the person? Remember, it’s an idea or concept being suggested that you are actually upset or disappointed by, not the individual.
  • A put-down – Have you found yourself saying things like, “That’s a dumb idea?” Avoid putting down the other person’s ideas, culture, or beliefs. Use respectful language, such as, “I don’t see it the same way you do.”
  • Emotionally charged – It’s easy to grow passionate and heated about topics that matter to us. Instead of lashing out or saying regretful statements, take a deep breath. Think before you speak or ask to continue the conversation at a later time if need be.
  • About you – Do you stop listening and begin mentally formulating your argument? Maybe you avoid it altogether and simply comply. Instead of shutting down or over-talking, try listening for understanding. Ask questions to gain insight into the person’s thoughts and feelings. Listening is a universal sign of respect.

PHYSICAL CUES

Learn to listen to your body’s clues and dues during a disagreement. Be mindful of overreacting, or “the amygdala hijack.” Our brain’s pre-frontal cortex is the center for rational thinking. Yet during an emotionally charged disagreement, the brain’s amygdala takes control and activates the fight, flight, or freeze response. Watch for physical cues such as a racing heart, increased breathing rate, or feeling tense to recognize the amygdala is kicking into high gear. Take some deep breaths to calm down and lower your heart-rate.

Navigating disagreements takes courage and maturity. Creating a culture and relationship built on mutual-respect amidst conflicting points of view is a worthy and rewarding pursuit.

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