How do you feel when someone disagrees with you? Enraged? Devastated? Threatened? Do you do whatever it takes to “win” the argument? To prove to them and every else that you are right and they are wrong?
BUT – what if the other person isn’t wrong? What if they simply have a different opinion from yours, have had a different experience to yours, or have different, insufficient or better (!!) evidence than yours?
It’s true: we could avoid many arguments and much conflict as individuals, couples, organisations and countries if we could remember to get two simple things ‘right’:
- People differ – that’s normal and good.
- When someone has a different opinion to ours it does not mean they reject us, want to attack us or hate us. It is not personal, it’s about an idea or set of ideas. We can listen without being defensive. We can afford to attack less and be more interested.
When being ‘right’ is just so wrong
How many of the following statements have you heard, read, said, thought or typed? . How often have you seen (or been part of) a disagreement that turned aggressive and mean? These are sure-fire ways to get a persons defenses raging, and before you know it you’re no longer disagreeing and well into arguing.
1. “No, you’re SO wrong there. You just can’t see it”. With this one, you’ll most likely come across as arrogant.
2. “Jeez – I thought you were brighter/ cleverer/ more open minded”. This is an attack. And comes across as arrogant.
3. “That’s just stupid”. Arrogant.
4. “Well.. I’m always/ usually right”. Well now, with that type of belief system chances are people have stopped disagreeing with you because you’re not reasonable! So it might seem like you’re always right… And yes, you guessed it, you come across as arrogant.
5. Everyone else agrees with me so…
We say this to appeal to the (totally human) desire to want to be the same, included, accepted. Unfortunately this approach often works (especially in the world of advertising – just ask 8 out of 10 cats…).
It is interesting to be aware that when we say this we are also giving the message that we need other peoples’ back up – that our own ‘belief’ isn’t enough. Using this approach weakens your stance, the person you’re with may think (correctly) that they are being manipulated, and you’ll appear – you guessed it – arrogant!
Here are some things you can say instead of “You’re SO Wrong!”
We all have opinions and beliefs. Even in the closest of relationships we will disagree on things! If you’re interested in having good conversation, Communicating honestly, maintaining your relationships – and your dignity – try some of these simple approaches to disagreement.
1. “Hmmmmm..That’s an interesting point of view – I hadn’t thought of it that way!” This is a lovely way to show a willingness on your part to be flexible. This is how we show people we are mature enough to recognise an opportunity to learn when we see one!
2. “Oh – that’s a new way of seeing it for me – can you help me to understand how you got there? “ This again shows a willingness to put aside your ego and learn more from the other person even if their idea seems bizarre and difficult for you to grasp.
People love to share their knowledge so this will very likely lead to a longer and better conversation for both of you – you may even change your stance (it happens!). Even if you don’t you’ll have learned something you didn’t know before the conversation.
Maybe follow with:
3. “I see it differently – would you like to hear/ see/ can I show you the information I have?”
This is a respectful way of offering an alternative view and giving the person the choice about hearing it – you aren’t ‘shoving anything down their throat’. You’re showing that you are confident in your beliefs but not so invested in your own opinion that you’ll force them to hear it and agree with it. Of course, forcing your opinion about anything on anyone usually has the opposite-to-desired effect.
If you’re tempted to start forcing it, breathe, and try this:
4. “Ah OK – so we understand it differently. It’s cool to know where you stand on this”.
Use this one if you can sense the other person won’t budge and your belief systems differ so greatly that you’ll never agree on this particular topic. This one is normally followed by a change of topic or a logging out of that particular thread or online forum 😉
Disagreements provide opportunities for growth and new connections, even for partnership or collaboration! When we stop insisting that other people are ‘wrong’, that we know better, that everything is personal, we get to enjoy people in ways we might not have dreamt of before.
Letting go of the need to be right is extraordinarily liberating. Give curiosity a chance the next time you feel a disagreement brewing – and notice how differently you feel and how differently the discussion goes 🙂