It seems like, especially in our current climate, we are frequently at odds with the people around us. Those differences in opinion or point of view do not have to lead to anger or conflict. Even if there cannot be resolution, there can be understanding. Here are eight ways to get past arguing and frustration and maybe get some new perspective.
1) Remain open: It is sometimes important to share our views without solidifying our position- digging in. Once we adopt a firm position and invest in that opinion, we’ve gone beyond holding merely a point of view. We’ve become so attached to an idea that any disagreement about it might insult us. Certain phrases signal that our opinion is just an idea on the table for discussion, not a revelation of eternal truth from on high. Those phrases include “From my point of view . . .” and “It looks to me like . . .”
In addition to remaining open, other suggestions for sharing a point of view without antagonism are:
- Always be willing to leave a conversation with a new or revised opinion.
- Be open to challenges to your point of view.
- State the supporting facts along with your point of view. Be prepared to provide verification and evidence.
- Stay in the discussion with the goal of possibly reaching agreement or understanding.
- When appropriate, apologize, or offer to make amends.
2) Permit the conflict: Conflict might get worse before it gets better. When we allow people to vent their feelings and frustrations, it might appear that things are just getting worse. Often, it pays to hang in there awhile longer. Sometimes, it’s the storm that comes before the calm. Once people express and release their anger and fear, they can often see how much they really respect each other and want a mutually beneficial solution.
3) Find common ground: We can often agree with a person’s goal even though we disagree with the strategies or tactics for reaching it. Most of us want similar things—happiness, health, love, and acceptance. Even when we disagree about how to realize these values, we can remind ourselves of this common ground. Agreeing on fundamental issues or core values paves the way to further agreements in more specific areas.
4) Consider interests, not positions: There is usually only one way to satisfy a position, while there are many ways to satisfy an interest. “This company needs to hire more people.” is a position that can be satisfied only by hiring more people. “This company needs to improve productivity.” is an interest that can be satisfied by exploring a variety of possible solutions.
5) Do it face-to-face: Conflict flourishes when we rely on third-party communication (this includes social media). Often we find ourselves talking about those with whom we disagree behind their backs. Resolving conflict usually means doing the opposite. Going directly to the people involved facilitates negotiating a solution that works for everyone. And email or texting does not count as directly addressing the person.
6) Do it in writing: One way to prepare for negotiation is to put your thoughts in writing. Write a letter or email that sums up the points you want to make. The act of clarifying your point of view enough to express it in writing is a great way to prepare for later conversations. You can enhance the power of this technique by summarizing, in writing, the opposite point of view as well. To get started at writing, imagine that you are composing a letter to a person who’s in conflict with you. If you find that the letter is full of accusations and anger, savor the feeling of getting all those thoughts off your chest. Then toss that letter and begin a new one focused on defining and solving the problem. Express yourself in “I” messages whenever possible, and invite a response from the other person. Then, consider sending the letter or email, if you think it will help. Even if you choose not to send the email or letter, there’s value in writing it.
7) Get to the point: Don’t ask others to wait in suspense while you warm up to your main problem or suggestion. Start with your main points. Offering a brief preview promotes clarity and can prevent misunderstanding.
8) Turn suggestions into requests: There is a clear distinction between requests and suggestions. A request calls for some type of response. It is an unresolved opening that awaits an answer and remains incomplete until a response is given. A suggestion can stand alone and does not require a response. If we disguise a request as a suggestion, we usually don’t get far. Take this suggestion: “You rush through your work right before a project is due. It causes some chaos and mistakes. You could get work done a little earlier.” After our suggestion is acknowledged (maybe with “That’s an interesting idea or I hear you.”), we still don’t know what response to expect. To solve this problem, we can turn the suggestion into a direct request: “Would you please complete the tasks at least three days prior to the deadline so we can review and discuss plans.” When we’re straight about what we want and get a response to our requests, we know where we stand. Remember, a request deserves an answer. Be assertive about getting one.